A group of downtown property and business owners have joined together to purchase the troubled Lazy KT Motel and will have the building torn down to help reduce crime in the neighborhood.
The Billings Industrial Revitalization District contacted Lazy KT’s owners months ago and asked about solutions to the property’s crime problem, said BIRD director Zack Terakedis.
One of the solutions proffered by the owner was to buy the property. Terakedis sent the answer to his members and a small group — he believes about four — formed a group.
“The group of private business owners purchased the property outright knowing the positive impact it will have on the neighborhood regarding the high crime rates,” wrote Terakedis in a press release.
The Lazy KT Motel at 1403 1st Ave No., has had a challenging history with a reputation as a hotbed for crime. In the past 24 months, there have been at least 338 calls for service to the Lazy KT property, according to Terakedis. During that same time period, hundreds of additional calls have been responded to by local police within a two-block area of the Lazy KT.
“My initial conversation with the owner was to ask for solutions they may have to help us reduce the crime rate in and around their property,” said Terakedis. “The owner provided a few examples, and sale of the property was one of the options. Once the word went out to the neighborhood, a concerned group of property owners banded together and provided the resources needed to make the sale happen.”
The purchase finalized Wednesday is part of a larger effort by BIRD to curb crime in the downtown area. That effort has been dubbed Project Greenlight by the district and is a concerted effort by downtown property owners to reduce crime through proactive measures. Mainly the project will streamline ways in which property owners and residents work with police to report crime and gather evidence using cameras and other existing infrastructure.
“Generally, it’s an advanced neighborhood watch,” said Terakedis. He added that the goal is to complement the Billings Police Department and not inundate them with calls for service or impede their own policing efforts.
The motel will undergo asbestos and toxic material abatement and then within five to six weeks of the removal will be demolished.
“They knew that if the property remained it was going to be a crime hub,” said Terakedis. It is unclear what uses the new owners will have for the property once the building is demolished.
“Efforts have been made by the BIRD, the past owners and new owners to find resources to re-house families who are currently living in the Lazy KT,” said the BIRD press release. “It has come to light the layers of challenge that exist in our community facing families who are on the brink of homelessness and the continued difficulties facing our law enforcement in an under-resourced situation.”
The Lazy KT is not the only motel to come under fire from the public for its crime rates. In April, City Administrator Chris Kukulski and City Attorney Gina Dahl sent a letter to managers of the Rodeway Inn in downtown Billings about the property's frequent police activity.
The motel had seen nine code enforcement complaints “in recent months” and more than 400 calls to police over the past six years, Kukulski and Dahl noted.
“This would be an astonishing number of calls if your property were a bar; but, as a hotel, it is simply amazing,” the city wrote. “I hope this throws up some red flags for you.”
The letter did not offer solutions but conveyed concerns about the criminal activity and how it harms surrounding businesses.
Vaibhav Gadade, the manager of the Rodeway Inn, said back in May that the spate of recent violent crime in Billings is big, and that his family feels it, too, sometimes worrying about their own safety.
But, he said, his business isn’t alone in being host to some of the violence.
“It’s happening in every other hotel, so I don’t know why they’re picking on the Rodeway Inn,” Gadade said.