McMenamins resort project in Bothell may transform old school
By fall 2015, Bothell’s 83-year-old Anderson School could be transformed into the first large McMenamins destination in the Seattle area. The Portland-based company is famous for revitalizing historic buildings with hotels, restaurants, bars and theaters.
Seattle Times staff reporter
Today, not much is going on behind the brick, art-deco facade of the old Anderson School, which has stood on Bothell Way Northeast since 1931.
But a transformation its alumni and the city of Bothell are eager to see could begin as early as this summer: That’s when McMenamins — a Portland-based hotel and restaurant company — hopes to start converting the campus into a hotel, theater, bar, brewery, restaurant, live-music venue, edible garden, tiki-themed pool and spa. The company’s goal is to add the Anderson School to its collection of revived historic buildings in the Pacific Northwest, with an opening by fall 2015.
Through a deal with the city, a community room and the tropical pool area will be open and free to Bothell residents for the first 15 years.
The principal’s office will be re-imagined as a cafe and wine bar, the cafeteria converted into a restaurant, and the classrooms divided into 73 hotel rooms, with hints of the four buildings’ history left behind. The pool house, however, will be torn down and turned into the centerpiece of a full-time staffed tropical, edible garden.
For McMenamins, the $26 million project will be its first large resort in the Seattle area. With the exception of the Olympic Club in Centralia, the company’s larger destinations are in Oregon. That includes the Kennedy School in Portland; Edgefield, a former county poor farm in Troutdale; and the Old St. Francis School in Bend, each of which has become a tourist attraction all on its own.
For Bothell, the Anderson School development is key to a downtown revitalization effort — and could end up being an attraction for much of the Eastside if it becomes as popular as other McMenamins projects.
Mike McMenamin, who runs the hotel-and-restaurant company with his brother Brian McMenamin, says the city of Bothell offered a unique deal in an area that’s already growing and changing on its own.
“It’s not just us — lots of things are happening in the town and it’s exciting,” said Mike McMenamin. “Everybody is pretty pumped up and the city’s been so proactive it’s been fun, which is unusual. That’s what attracted us.”
Steep discount, public use
The Anderson School transformation has been in the works for at least six years, beginning with Bothell City Manager Bob Stowe approaching the company with the possibility of a deal.
He’d been impressed by how McMenamins used local artists and history to revitalize the Olympic Club Hotel in Centralia, where Stowe grew up, and wondered if the company would be willing to do something on a larger scale for Bothell.
In 2009, the city bought the Anderson School property — which had functioned as a junior high for decades, then as a location for an alternative school and administrative offices for the Northshore School District. After a competitive bidding process, the city sold it the next year to McMenamins at a steep discount as part of a public-private partnership: Instead of paying the $7 million Stowe said the property is worth, the company bought it for $2.4 million.
In exchange, McMenamins would make part of the property — the pool and a community room — available for public use and renovate the property’s aging buildings. Mike McMenamin said they’re more than willing to have the buzz of public traffic coursing through the property, which they envision as a hot spot for nightly live music and other artsy events.
The development comes as the city of Bothell has started work on a $150 million effort to improve roads and build a new City Hall and a waterfront park that will connect downtown to the Sammamish River by 2025. A new bridge over the river will link both areas to the Burke-Gilman Trail.
”Bothell is a 104-year-old community, and I think to connect our past to our future development is going to be exciting,” said Stowe.
The company and city had hoped the development would open this summer, but Stowe said soil cleanup from a gas station that used to be near the school delayed the project.
For the first time, McMenamins is also using a new federally approved crowdfunding mechanism to raise $8 million more for the property by the end of June. McMenamins Chief Financial Officer Larry Dortmund said that since they recently opened up an opportunity for smaller accredited investors to help build the property — those who either make more than $200,000 a year or have more than $1 million net worth — they’ve reached about half of their goal.
Dortmund said the company will re-evaluate the construction timeline at the end of June based on how much money is raised, but the goal is to be moving dirt around the 5.4-acre site by the end of summer and have the development finished in 13 to 14 months after that.
Marrying past, present
While funding packages and construction plans await completion, generations of Anderson School alumni have been lining up memorabilia for the company to feature inside the hotel and restaurant.
Part of McMenamins’ interior-design process involves research of local history and gathering artifacts illustrating that history, said Tim Hills, the company’s historian.
“We went to the almuni society’s annual picnic last year, and they were so excited about sharing photos, jerseys, yearbooks and pennants — that’s the ideal from our perspective,” Hills said.
McMenamins did similar work for the Kennedy School in Portland by decorating the halls of the old elementary school with original student art and photos from decades ago. The scholastic theme is so true that some rooms still have chalkboards in them.
High on the company’s list of people to work with on the Anderson School project should be alums such as Ron Nardone, a student back in the 1950s.
Nardone, 70, doesn’t just have a few pieces of memorabilia — his 12-acre Maltby property houses Bothell public-school artifacts in a building that is half school museum, half 1950s diner. Along with Bothell High School memorabilia, the building stores a large W.A. Anderson banner his mother remembers seeing hung in the school when she and her siblings attended in the 1930s.
Nardone also has an old W.A. Anderson letterman sweater, yearbooks, class photos and plenty of memories.
“I don’t know why I’ve always been into keeping and collecting these things,” said Nardone. “I guess so many other pieces of Bothell history have been torn down over the years, I try to keep as much of it as possible.”
Former Anderson student Lynda Humphrey, 68, said a close network of alumni that often throws reunions on Nardone’s property can’t wait to see how McMenamins infuses their history into the building. Humphrey not only attended the middle school then known as W.A. Anderson School in the 1960s but worked there as a district grants coordinator in the 1980s and 1990s.
“They really preserve the history of not just the building but decorate the walls with photos from the past, and that piece really speaks to our hearts,” said Humphrey. “We know the building is going to be honored, which means our history is going to be honored.”
Alexa Vaughn: 206-464-2515 or firstname.lastname@example.org.