Future McMenamins resort takes shape at historic Bothell school site

By Jim Davis
(Everett) Herald Business Journal 

It takes a little bit of imagination, but you can begin to see the McMenamins in the old Anderson School in downtown Bothell.

The Oregon-based company is renovating the historic junior high school into one of its quirky destination resorts with a mix of beer, art and history.

On Wednesday, brothers Mike and Brian McMenamin, who started the business with a single pub in 1983, showed off the work on the school.

“Wouldn’t you like to drink in class and sleep in class?” joked Mike McMenamin. “There’s an allure to that.”

The $26 million project is scheduled to open Oct. 15 and will feature a 72-room hotel, a 134-seat, first-run movie theater, three main bars and four smaller ones, a game room and a 112-foot-long pool that will be open for guests and the community.

“We expect to get a lot of usage out of this pool,” Mike McMenamin said. “We hope the whole town is here at once.”

It’s the newest project for the McMenamins, who have more than 50 properties in Oregon and Washington that include pubs, hotels, theaters, concert venues and spas. Most of their projects are in historic or renovated older buildings.

In 2010, McMenamins acquired the 1931 art-deco school building from the city of Bothell, which purchased the 5-acre property the previous year from the Northshore School District.

The Anderson School, at 18603 Bothell Way NE, consists of several buildings surrounding a woodsy courtyard. A crew of 80 workers are renovating each building and a team of 20 artists are working on panels — including painted headboards in each bedroom — throughout the property.

The main school building is being transformed into the hotel. Contractors are able to put about three to four bedrooms in each classroom.

“That’s the fun part,” Brian McMenamin said. “Getting them all a little different so they’re not all just a box.”

The school’s old gymnasium is being converted into a movie theater and a separate room to be used for conferences, concerts or weddings or other events. The separate room will be decorated with 20 chandeliers at different heights, an antique cigar cabinet with a bar and doors that open out onto the courtyard.

A 10-barrel brewery will be installed in the school’s old woodshop that will also include a game room with pool tables and shuffleboard. The resort’s main restaurant is being built in the school’s old cafeteria.

Anderson School featured a swimming pool that was built in the 1970s. The McMenamins plan to bring a tropical, South Seas-feel to the pool, adding a tiki bar and indoor botanicals. The pool is expected to be 3 to 5 feet deep and filled with saltwater.

In the courtyard is what the McMenamins call the heart and soul of the resort. It’s a little shack built from the ground up that features a cozy fireplace. The shack will be surrounded by several fire pits.

“This is where you go in and you have to talk to the person next to you because it’s so tight you can’t not talk to the person next to you,” Mike McMenamin said. “There’s no TV. There’s no music. It’s just people on people. Unfortunately, we don’t have a cellphone block yet.”

The company plans to decorate the resort with antique pieces they’ve collected over the years, some of it stored in “dusty old corners.”

“If you try to do a project this big and go find the stuff quickly, you wouldn’t really get what you want,” Mike McMenamin said.

Other ornaments will be made by craftsmen and artists, including a set of lanterns for an outdoor pathway.

“The lanterns we’re trying to sort out how to get that ‘Alice in Wonderland’ feel right now,” Mike McMenamin said.

The centerpiece of the project will be the school itself, from the old buildings to the stories of the people who taught at the school or lived in the community. It’s what makes a McMenamins property unique and why they pay $100 more a square foot to rehab a building rather than tear down and build new.

“It just seems more human when you have an older space and you make it work,” Mike McMenamin said. “The history is here. The history is in the walls. The history is in the feeling here.”

Anderson School hotel rooms can be reserved online at www.mcmenamins.com. The opening weekend is already booked. Event space bookings are available online or by calling 425-398-0127.

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