Pub chain McMenamins buying Bothell school, pool
In an unusual public-private partnership that could jump-start the revitalization of downtown Bothell, the Portland pub and hotel chain McMenamins is buying a historic Bothell school building to turn into a boutique hotel and entertainment complex.
Seattle Times Eastside reporter
In an unusual public-private partnership that could jump-start the revitalization of downtown Bothell, the Portland pub and hotel chain McMenamins is buying a historic Bothell school building to turn it into a boutique hotel and entertainment complex.
City officials say it's a fitting development for the $150 million downtown makeover the city launched earlier this year, and an unusual bright spot in the slow-moving regional economy. The McMenamins complex will also include a restaurant, pub, movie theater, live music entertainment and spa.
The most unusual part of the deal: McMenamins will acquire the city's swimming pool, fix it up and provide free use to residents for 15 years. The pool's boiler is broken, and it's been shut down for a year; Bothell has not been able to find a way to operate it without losing money.
"There's something for everybody to love in this deal," said Mayor Mark Lamb.
"Frankly, the economy needs a shot in the arm, and that's an appropriate role for municipal government to play."
The City Council voted 6-1 this week to approve the deal.
Earlier this year, Bothell launched a plan to redevelop its downtown by encouraging town homes, mid-rise apartments and condominiums, as well as retail, office and residential mixed-use development. A new city-hall campus and expanded park system also are in the works. It's an effort to discourage sprawl and make downtown more walkable, Lamb said.
As part of that plan, the city bought 18 acres of downtown property from the Northshore School District for $20.6 million, in hopes of reselling it to developers with the right kind of proposals. The 5.4-acre property that is being sold to McMenamins for $7 million is part of that deal.
"This will really activate our downtown," City Manager Bob Stowe said. "We were extremely pleased to be able to recruit them."
Stowe said the city hopes the project will be the catalyst for the city to sell the rest of the property to other developers.
In addition to free use of the pool, McMenamins will also give Bothell free access to community meeting space and a community garden for 15 years. When the 15 years is up, McMenamins would no longer be obligated to provide public access to the pool, gardens or meeting space, but might agree to do so anyway for a fee, city officials said.
The pool is next door to the Anderson school, which McMenamins will convert into a hotel. Its guests likely will use the pool, too. The property also includes a gym and other buildings that will be part of the new McMenamins complex.
The school currently houses an alternative program for high-school students.
The Anderson school building, designed in the art-deco style and opened in 1931, might even earn a spot on the National Register of Historic Places after renovation, Stowe hopes. Preserving the school was an important part of the deal for Bothell, because the city is proud of its 100-year history.
The family-owned McMenamins is known for converting historic buildings into appealing small hotels, pubs and movie houses. It has 57 properties around Oregon and Washington, including four pubs in the Greater Seattle area.
"People are saying this is a company very much in keeping with the spirit of Bothell," Lamb said. "There's a really cool vibe about them, and they really draw people in."
A McMenamins historian will investigate the Anderson school's past and highlight that history as part of the renovation, said company spokeswoman Renee Rank. In other McMenamins properties, the company has unearthed old photos and stories of the people who lived or worked there.
McMenamins has long had an interest in opening a hotel in the Seattle area, Rank said. In 2005, the company proposed redevelopment of the old seminary building at Saint Edward State Park, but dropped the deal two years later, after the city of Kenmore passed an ordinance that prohibited establishments selling alcohol in the parks.
Under the terms of the Bothell deal, the company must open the complex by June 2013. Lamb said the city hopes McMenamins will be able to fix up the pool and return it to operation before that time.
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or email@example.com