By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • January 23, 2017
A development group has announced plans for building a four-story boutique hotel at the corner of Fourth and Ford streets in downtown McMinnville.
The hotel, dubbed the Atticus, Latin for elegant or classy, is projected for completion in the spring of 2018. It will have 23,000 square feet, located on a parking lot currently used by McMinnville News-Register employees and Third Street Flats guests.
A group of investors led by the co-owners of Third Street Flats, Erin Stephenson and Brian Shea, is behind the $6 million project.
The development group includes Stephenson’s father, Rob, former owner of Cascadia Landscaping, and Jeb Bladine, publisher and co-owner of the News-Register. However, ownership and oversight of the business will be limited to the Stephenson-Shea company.
If all progresses according to plan, Stephenson said, the group expects to break ground in May. Construction should take about 10 months, she said.
The hotel will be relatively small, featuring only 36 rooms, but richly appointed. “We really wanted to do something that was, by intent, small and intimate,” she said.
The property is being developed by Odd Fellows Building LLC, which includes all four principals. That LLC will lease it to another LLC, a Stephenson-Shea venture known as Live McMinnville, which will own and operate the hotel venture.
In addition to about 50 jobs, Stephenson predicted the hotel would generate $63,000 a year in local urban renewal revenue and more than $200,000 a year in local lodging tax income. “Estimates predict that hotel guests will spend about $2 million annually at local businesses,” she added.
“This is huge for downtown,” said Rebecca Quandt, executive director of the McMinnville Downtown Association. “This is a big one.
“This is one of the biggest projects we have seen on the docket in a really long time. With a streetscape plan collecting dust, this is one of the projects that will really reflect downtown development.”
Quandt said the hotel would also fill a major need in the community, which currently lacks accommodations on the upscale level of The Allison in Newberg. “We don’t have enough conference space, and we don’t have enough hotels,” she said.
The 36 rooms at the Atticus will cost around $300 per night and go up from there, Stephenson said. In addition to offering a level of luxury similar to that of her two Third Street Flats locations, she said, the new hotel will offer valet, bellhop and concierge services.
The Flats are more like apartments, so visitors must carry their own luggage up the stairs. That won’t be the case with the new accommodations, she said.
The Atticus will offer studio and one-bedroom suites as well as a two-bedroom penthouse. It will also feature a restaurant, bar, conference room, business center and private dining room.
One amenity the hotel won’t be able to offer, at least to all of its guests, is private parking. Stephenson said the hotel will feature space for 10 to 18 cars, and the overflow will be valet-parked on the street or in the municipal parking structure at Fifth and Evans.
That feature should not be a problem, Stephenson said. “As much as we like to think so, we know we’re not going to be at capacity all the time,” she said.
It will be a slight hardship on newspaper and hotel employees, she conceded.
“We’re losing our parking too,” she noted, referring to the Third Street Flats location in the adjacent Odd Fellows Building. But she said, “The two-block walk from the parking structure will be good for us — part of our new fitness regimen.”
She said members of the development group are also evaluating the potential for leasing additional parking.
McMinnville Planning Director Heather Richards noted the city recently hired a consultant to conduct an assessment of local parking needs, studying patterns and determining where additional parking is the most critical.
“The new hotel will definitely be included in our parking survey,” she said. “This will put some push on the parking discussion. It will help us identify potential capacity and where to provide relief.”
Quandt said the current parking structure is underused, so concerns about parking, while real, should not overshadow the tremendous economic benefits the hotel will provide.
“One of the things we love about Mac is that we can park in front of our offices,” she said. “What we don’t understand is that it’s OK to park three blocks away. That’s part of being in a downtown area.”
Thanks to the wine industry, McMinnville is increasingly drawing high-end tourists seeking luxury accommodations they can’t currently find, Quandt said. “They will spend $400 a night and not bat an eye,” she said.
She said groups might also be willing to pay more for stays at the Atticus. While $300 a night may seem too spendy for many visitors, she said, groups have the option of doubling up and splitting costs.
Quandt, who holds a master’s degree in historic preservation from Clemson University, said she was pleased to learn that design of the new building had been committed to architect Nathan Cooprider, who designed the KAOS Building at Third and Galloway. She said he conceived a building there that matches the historic look of surrounding downtown structures, and could be relied upon to match that with the new structure.
“I was really excited,” she said. “It’s going to fit really well the historic district.
“Their color schemes, the materials they’re using, it feels kind of Art Deco and Italian to me. I love that they’re going local and using the same architect as KAOS,” which was completed in 2015.
She usually feels jittery when new construction goes up in old areas, Quandt said.
“That makes me nervous, with my background,” she said. “You never know what developers are going to do.” But she said she felt safe with Cooprider.
Stephensen expressed similar feelings.
“We’ve really worked hard to achieve that historic feel,” she said. “Nathan Cooprider has been a fantastic partner with us on this project.
“We think this is a really beautiful building and fits in with the surround architecture. When people see it, they’ll be surprised that it hasn’t been here all along.”
The new hotel will also help develop Fourth Street as a gateway to downtown, Quandt said — especially with the adjacent Granary District undergoing continued development. “The natural flow of downtown is toward the Granary District,” she said.
Stephenson and Shea have operated Third Street Flats for the past seven years, expanding from one location to two along the way.
She said the name of the new hotel had no association with Atticus Finch, protagonist in the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
She said she and her partner thought it evoked generosity and wisdom. “It sort of feels like our small town to us,” she said.
Richards said a downtown hotel had been on her mind since she made the move to McMinnville five months ago.
The design was approved Monday by the Historic Landmarks Commission in its first public debut. “It’s a beautiful and well-designed building and a tremendous opportunity for downtown McMinnville,” Richards said.