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Former problem property in Willmar, Minn., becomes extended-stay motel

The property at 616 Highway 71 N.E., the site of the former Viking Motel. Tribune photo by Ron Adams

WILLMAR -- A local "problem property" has been transformed by two Willmar businessmen.

The former Viking Motel property received a facelift this spring after being purchased by Gabe Olson and Jeff Huston. Now called Suite Liv'n, the property is an extended-stay motel "for hard-working people who need stable housing while they get back on their feet," Huston said.

Olson and Huston bought the property at 616 Highway 71 N.E. for $100,000 in February and have been working since to clean up the motel, putting nearly $500,000 back into it.

"We saw it as a financial opportunity," Huston said. "We were aware this was a problem property and had been talking to the city about the problems they'd been having with it. We wanted to come in and clean it up and make it nice for the community."

That cleanup included hauling 25 trailers of furniture and debris out of the units and going in and deep-cleaning, painting and installing new carpeting, cabinetry and appliances in each unit. Huston and Olson's goal is to attract a different kind of clientele than what Viking Motel previously attracted.

"There will be no transient people staying here, only people looking for a place to stay long-term," Olson said. "We thought this would be a better fit for what we do, for this area and for the Willmar community."

Olson and Huston also own 26 houses in the Willmar area that they rent to families whose homes have been foreclosed on, and they hope Suite Liv'n will serve the same type of people.

"We just like hardworking families and people who are trying to get by," Olson said.

Suite Liv'n is now open for business, and six individuals have already moved in. The extended stay motel has a total of 25 units, with options of a standard suite, a slightly larger king's suite and a two-bedroom king's mansion.

All suites come with the option for Internet and cable. The suites also come with a television, kitchenette with stove/oven, refrigerator and microwave and a full bathroom. Laundry facilities are located on-site. Up to two people can stay in each suite.

Additionally, the building received a new roof, siding, windows and heating/cooling units, along with fresh paint and flooring in each suite.

A standard suite starts at $485 per month. Olson and Huston are expecting prospective residents to stay at Suite Liv'n for about six months to one year.

"We just wanted to create a safe and positive place for people who need efficiency living to stay," Huston said.

Olson said they modeled Suite Liv'n after what they look for when they go home.

"We wanted people to have a peaceful place to rest," Olson said. "We wanted to create a refuge for them. Those are all the things we want when we go home from work."

To download an application and view photos of the units, visit