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Future unclear for Airlane

Updated: Feb 19

Problematic hotel closed for months, Feb. 2023 murder remains unsolved


Photo credit: Westlake Associates Inc.

Most of Georgetown’s Flora Avenue is a pleasant, tree-lined, four-block stretch of residential homes. But on the corner with East Marginal Way sits the Airlane Motel, which has been vacant for months. 


These days, a chain-link fence surrounds the two-story, 7,900-square-foot building, but it has failed to stop the accumulation of graffiti, weeds, and trash.


Yet, for longtime nearby residents, the current situation is still better than before.


The motel at 7070 E. Marginal Way was a longtime hub of drug-dealing, prostitution, assault, and other crimes. Criminal activity spilled into the neighborhood, causing near-constant anxiety for nearby neighbors.


“There was some sort of daily unpredictable drama and we could directly link it to people coming and going from that motel,” said Julie Johnson, who has lived in the 6900 block of Flora for 20 years. She recalled a prostitute was Tasered in her backyard, people relieved themselves in her front yard and yet others offered her children drugs. Abandoned cars, reckless driving and sleep interrupted by screams was also common.


The Airlane is one of a handful of hotels along East Marginal Way. All have had their share of incidents through the years drawing the ire of Georgetown residents. But the Airlane excelled in this area. Eleven years ago, Seattle police declared the 20-unit motel a “chronic nuisance property” and threatened steep fines or property seizure. Things improved for a while, but not enough, Johnson said. The hotel changed owners, but the problems persisted.


A deadly shooting, then a fire


On Feb. 27, 2023, a man was shot and killed in the Airlane Motel. The King County Medical Examiner later identified the man as Cameron Ellis, 30. Attempts to contact his survivors were not successful. 


Hours after the shooting, Seattle police published a blog post stating officers located a potential suspect nearby, but did not say if they questioned or took someone into custody. In the year since, police have repeatedly declined to discuss the case only saying it remains under investigation.


Troy Smith, manager of the Munson Motel next to the Airlane, said investigators visited several days after the shooting looking to review his motel’s security cameras. They told Smith the suspect possibly walked through the Munson parking lot to get to the Airlane. However, camera footage automatically erased after five days and police were too late, Smith said. Police declined to comment.


On May 23, a fire in a room caused more than $60,000 in damage. Fire investigators ruled the cause accidental. Repairs and renovations appeared to be underway, but a short time later, the motel ceased operations. A private security company guarded the property for a few weeks, but they are long since gone.


What’s next?


Without the hotel’s usual activity, this past summer was “like a gift,” Johnson said. “I remember in the middle of the summer telling my husband, ‘I just feel like we live in a normal neighborhood now.’” 


Smith is also glad the Airlane is closed. He hopes mixed-income housing is built on the site to “turn something that has been a problem for the neighborhood into a positive.”


Plans for the property are unknown. It was listed for sale in 2022 with an asking price of $2.1 million, but that listing does not appear active now. Messages sent to the listed governor of an LLC that owns the property, Myung Ha Kang, were not returned. The motel’s listed phone number is disconnected.


Johnson would also like to see housing or a business on the site connected to and supporting the community instead of “causing havoc.”


“I just want a good neighbor,” she said.



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