‘End of an era:’ Thunderbird Motel lot officially signed over to the City of Pasco

PASCO, Wash. — It’s the end of an era for the Thunderbird Motel as the city of Pasco officially closed on its $1.2 million dollar deal to purchase the lot on Tuesday.

Officials said they are planning to tear the structure down and renovate the lot to add parking for the downtown area.

Although the motel was a Pasco landmark, city officials said it was also a magnet for crime, citing at least 300 police calls to the building in just the first few months of 2022.

“It’s been here for decades,” said Mike Gonzalez, Pasco’s economic development manager. “It was prostitution, crime, drug dealing, overdoses. Everything negative was really associated about this.”

Now, they’re hoping this will be an ‘exciting’ first step towards revitalizing the area.

“We are serious at the city of Pasco of really moving the needle and I think from the feedback that I’m getting everybody’s really excited about the possibilities,” Gonzalez said. “It’s about a better day in the city of Pasco. Physically, mentally, emotionally, I think it gives us a new start.”

Song ‘Mike’ Hwang, the owner for the past 15 years, said he believed selling the property was “the right thing to do” as he was already planning to retire.

“Yeah I understand, I admit some problems here but I try my best to clean or keep my place in shape,” Hwang said.

Despite a poor reputation amongst some Tri-Citians, Hwang said he’ll miss the customers he served.

“I’ll miss the homeless people around here because they are friends for a long time,” Hwang said.

Gonzalez said the city made a “concerted effort to reach out to the people staying at the building.”

“We made every step working with our partners at Union Gospel Mission who are just a stone’s throw away, Community Action Committee, Tri-Cities Community Health… we have been intimately involved in making sure that everybody had a place to go,” Gonzalez said.

Officials said that the city is beginning a three-step process, which includes checking the building for asbestos before knocking the structure down.

“He wanted to retire and we wanted to revitalize downtown Pasco so just all those forces really came together,” Gonzalez said.

Hwang added that the whole experience was surreal.

“Time flies, so I’m so proud of myself. My wife too,” Hwang said.

City officials are hoping to have the new parking lot ready by March 2023.

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