Richfield wants to turn the lights off at its Motel 6 — permanently.
The property at the corner of Old Cedar Avenue and Interstate 494 stands in the path of a planned highway underpass that would connect Richfield to the Mall of America and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.
The 77th Street Underpass has been at the top of the city’s public works wish list for the past decade. So there was rejoicing at City Hall last year when the Legislature included it in a major bonding bill. Richfield leaders say the connection to the bustling areas on the other side of Cedar Avenue will bring new life to a downtrodden corner of the city.
“It is a top priority, if not the top priority, of the city,” said City Council Member Michael Howard. “We need to move that forward.”
But the state bonding money, which will pay for building the underpass, can’t be used to buy land needed for the project. The Motel 6, owned by a Texas-based hospitality company, is worth about $2.2 million, according to Hennepin County property records. And it’s essential to the deal.
“We can’t go forward without that piece of property,” said Mike Eastling, Richfield’s director of public works. “The [planned] road goes right over the top of that building.”
It’s unclear where money to buy the Motel 6 would come from. Howard and Rep. Linda Slocum, DFL-Richfield, said officials are pursuing several options for state funding, possibly through the Department of Employment and Economic Development. Richfield City Manager Steve Devich said the overall project is moving forward even as efforts to acquire the Motel 6 continue.
“We are continuing to work toward assembling the financial pieces necessary for the construction of the 77th Street Underpass, which includes the eventual acquisition of the Motel 6 property,” Devich said. “We have just received our funding authority of $2.5 million for the engineering design of the project and are excited to be moving forward.”
A spokeswoman for the owner, G6 Hospitality Properties, said she had no comment on any negotiations for the property.
Richfield police records show that officers made more than 1,330 visits to the Motel 6 between Jan. 1, 2012, and March 9 of this year. The most common reasons for police calls were disturbances, “extra patrol,” warrant arrests and suspicious vehicles or persons. But as defined under city ordinances, the Richfield police do not classify the Motel 6 as a “nuisance property,” said Lt. Mike Flaherty.
Humorist Tom Bodett, in his 28th year as spokesman for the Motel 6 brand, said he couldn’t comment on anything having to do with the Richfield motel.
But asked if he had any wryly humorous words on the prospect of a tunnel to the Mall of America, he replied in an e-mail: “It is nearly impossible to come up with anything but wryly humorous words when considering a tunnel to the Mall of America.”