The Ritchie Motel, a dilapidated Brooklyn Park landmark that became notorious as a prostitute hangout and was attacked as an "eyesore" byangry neighbors, has closed.
After more than three decades of decline, the small strip motel off Ritchie Highway abruptly shut its doors and boarded up its windows last month. Brooklyn Park community leaders, who have complained bitterly about the motel for years, were delighted.
"It's been a real nuisance," said Rick Bittner, president of the Greater Brooklyn Park Council, an umbrella organization representing 13 neighborhood groups. "That hotel has been an eyesore, a source of crime and alleged prostitution."
County police arrested a number of prostitutes who listed their address at the Ritchie Motel earlier this year, said Officer V. Richard Molloy, a police spokesman. When the vice squad cracked down on prostitution along Ritchie Highway, officers found many of the women were renting rooms at the motel.
Molloy couldn't say whether the arrests prompted the owner to evict the motel management. Lana Greenberg, a Baltimore businesswoman who owns the property, did not return a call to her office yesterday.
Civic leaders and state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-Brooklyn Park, said they hope to encourage the owner to redevelop the property. Even though theadjacent bar still is open, community leaders said they would preferoffices or stores over a renovated motel.
"I'd like to see that whole strip be used to house your small boutique-type stores," said Arlene Hodges, president of the Olde Brooklyn Park Improvement Association. "Maybe some craft stores, collector's items, those things that would be more in tone with the neighborhood."
Two fires have damaged the motel since it closed in April, worrying Hodges and other Brooklyn Park residents. Both fires were set by vagrants who broke into the motel and moved into several rooms, said Capt. Gary Sheckells, county Fire Department spokesman.
Shortly after the motel closed, vagrants set a small fire that caused about $100 worth of damage. A monthafter that April 29 fire, another group of people living in one of the rooms accidentally set fire to the ceiling by cooking food over a makeshift burner, Sheckells said.
"It should have burned all the way to the ground," said an angry neighbor, who has lived next door tothe motel for years. The neighbor said he was fed up with "people raising hell in the parking lot, throwing beer bottles and stuff."