Oregon native Erin Stephenson developed a successful boutique lodging business for the wine country city of McMinnville that has inspired her group to plan on building the four-story Atticus Hotel within walking distance of 18 wineries.
Groundbreaking for the Atticus Hotel, billed as “the Willamette Valley wine country’s first urban luxury boutique hotel,” is scheduled for May with a target opening of spring 2018. Based on the support for her 3rd Street Flats operations inside the Historic McMinnville Bank and the nearby Odd Fellows Lodge, the Atticus and its 36 rooms will be booked sight unseen months in advance for the 2018 International Pinot Noir Conference.
“We love IPNC, and it seems as though our town bursts that much more at the seams that last week in July every year,” Stephenson told Great Northwest Wine. “It’s such an amazing event, and we’re expecting to begin taking reservations in October 2017 for guests.”
Stephenson is a hometown gal, class of ’97 from “Mac High,” and the Atticus Hotel is a $6 million construction project for her group. The 22,640-square foot building at the corner of Fourth and Ford will be owned by her Odd Fellows Building LLC, a commercial real estate group that includes her father, landscape designer Rob Stephenson, newspaper publisher Jeb Bladine and Brian Shea. They expect to create 50 jobs for the community where all four owners live.
Atticus Hotel will provide alternative to B&Bs
The North Willamette Valley is famous for its bed-and-breakfast options in wine country, but aside from Newberg’s tony The Allison Inn & Spa, options for the well-heeled wine tourist are limited.
“McMinnville has a lot of vacation rentals that have been developed in the last couple of years along with the B&Bs, chain hotels and McMenamins Hotel Oregon, which is great,” Stephenson said. “But there are a lot of people who want a fully catered experience, and we haven’t been able to offer that to them in McMinnville.”
Erin Stephenson and Shea will operate The Atticus Hotel under Live McMinnville LLC, a company the two created as part of their 3rd Street Flats business. Concierge service will be a key component at the Atticus Hotel, she said. And while her guests will be just minutes away from acclaimed wineries in towns such as Carlton and Dundee, they won’t need their vehicles to get a taste for McMinnville.
“Sunset magazine named ours The Best Main Street in the West, and we will offer a luxury experience in the heart of a charming, historical downtown,” she said. “And the Atticus Hotel won’t be just for McMinnville, but for the Willamette Valley as a whole.”
Dining options are even more abundant as downtown McMinnville boasts 35 restaurants. And The Atticus will share its block with the Oregon wine industry’s most historic restaurant — Nick’s Italian Cafe, just around the corner on bustling Third Street.
Atticus Hotel to share block with Nick’s Italian Cafe
Stephenson and Shea have been involved with a pair of McMenaminsesque renovation projects as part of 3rd Street Flats, starting with Historic McMinnville Bank, constructed in 1885. Stephenson and her husband, Travis Easterday, transformed the second-floor apartments into high-end vacation rentals in 2010 as the first of their 3rd Street Flats destinations. On the ground floor is Bitter Monk Brew Pub, which assists lodging guests with their keys.
The branding of Live McMinnville, parent company for 3rd Street Flats, is a tip of the hat to the confidence and pride they have in the vibe of his college town. The Atticus Hotel will be a short walk from the campus of Linfield College.
“I grew up in McMinnville, and I’ve really enjoyed watching the town develop and change over the years because of its close proximity to so many amazing wineries,” she said. “It’s a town with an interesting and unique nature, but I’m probably the most biased person you are ever going to talk to!”
Their Odd Fellows Lodge building on Third Street was built in 1909 and restored more than 80 years later by Dwight and Barbara Sidway, whose renovation projects include the Biltmore Hotel in Florida and the Geiser Grand Hotel in Baker City, Ore. (Barbara Sidway earned a Regional Spotlight honor from the Oregon Wine Board as part of the 2017 Oregon Wine A-List Awards.)
Now, the ground floor of the Odd Fellows Lodge is home to a tasting room for Terra Vina Wines, which uses estate fruit from the Chehalem Mountains. The second and third floors serve as Odd Fellows Lodge for 3rd Street Flats. Those guests acquire room keys at the nearby tasting room for R. Stuart & Co.
“The wine industry was part of the inception for 3rd Street Flats seven years ago, and it’s the heart and soul of our business today,” Stephenson said. “We love the opportunity to chat with people and help them plan their itinerary and try to match people with their interests and wineries and McMinnville’s culinary scene, too. We are so appreciative of the wine industry, and it’s central to what we do.”
Hotel Atticus will be adjacent to Odd Fellows Lodge. The building permit would have allowed Odd Fellows LLC to add a fifth floor to the Atticus, but that’s not the goal of Live McMinnville, Stephenson said.
“We’ve been working in lodging in McMinnville for the last seven years, and what we’re trying to cultivate is an intimate experience and a personal experience,” she said. “It’s not about having the guests pass through. We really want to help them make connections with the wineries, the restaurants, other businesses and everything McMinnville has to offer.”
Stephenson earned an honors degree in Latin American history from the University of Oregon. After several years of working for nonprofits in the area, she joined forces with Shea, a real estate developer from Oregon State University who first spent a decade as a graphics designer in Southern California. His wife is Dianne Haugeberg, a McMinnville attorney and one of Stephenson’s childhood friends.
“We have two little plastic toys in the office — one Duck and one Beaver,” Stephenson chuckled. “They hide around and pop up from time to time. We have a fun little Civil War throughout the year.”
Wine industry deeply involved in McMinnville
The Atticus Hotel will feature a variety of studio and one-bedroom suites starting at $300 per night. There also will be the penthouse with two bedrooms and 2½ baths. Other features planned include a conference room, exercise facility, business center, private dining, restaurant with bar, valet parking and 24-hour concierge service.
McMinnville architect Nathan Cooprider will design the Atticus Hotel with R&H Construction of Portland as the general contractor. Funding is through Citizens Bank in McMinnville, the Oregon Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Live McMinnville estimates that the Atticus Hotel will generate $63,000 a year in property taxes for McMinnville’s Urban Renewal District and more than $200,000 annually in lodging taxes. More importantly, they predict guests will spend $2 million each year in and around McMinnville.
Oregon’s wine industry is well represented on the board of Visit McMinnville, which Stephenson chairs. There’s treasurer Ellen Brittan (Brittan Vineyards), vice chair Maria Stuart (R. Stuart & Co.) and board member Carmen Peirano (second-generation owner of Nick’s Italian Cafe). Jeff Knapp spent nearly eight years in community relations at Sokol Blosser Winery until Visit McMinnville hired him as its executive director. His marketing manager, Kitri McGuire, handled those duties at Sokol Blosser for seven years before her four years at Leatherman Tool Group.
Stephenson’s background includes five years with Habitat for Humanity prior to launching 3rd Street Flats and raising her family with Easterday. In 2015, she was named Business Leader of the Year by the McMinnville Area Chamber of Commerce. Once a hip injury heals, folks should expect to see Stephenson pedaling her bike into town to check on Atticus Hotel construction. However, she admits her anticipation will prompt her to hop in her car more often than not.
“We’re really excited to be doing this in McMinnville and to take this next step with the community,” Stephenson said. “We’re really involved with this community, and the town of McMinnville has been such an important part of my life.”