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Originally published June 24, 2010 at 4:32 PM | Page modified June 25, 2010 at 8:47 AM

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Lance Dickie / Seattle Times editorial columnist

Bothell teams with McMenamins for visionary urban redevelopment

The city of Bothell's ambitious redevelopment plans include conversion of a historic downtown school site into a 70-room hotel by a family-owned Oregon business, McMenamins, famous for its brew pubs, hotels and preservation skills.

Seattle Times editorial columnist

For all of the creative urban planning, cautious financing and bold leadership behind Bothell's $150 million redevelopment vision, the most amazing feature might be the community support it enjoys.

OK, the most stunning product of five years of work and review by City Hall and citizen panels is a shared goal and definable path. For process-paralyzed Puget Sound governance, that is the topper.

Bothell looks to reinvigorate itself by building on the strengths it already enjoys: a growing, economically stable population of 32,000, strong neighborhoods, an employment base grounded in biotechnology and telecommunications, and local higher-education ties to nurture.

The latest flurry came as the Bothell City Council voted to proceed with the sale of 5.41 acres in the heart of the city to McMenamins, an Oregon-based enterprise of brew pubs and hotels.

The family-owned business will turn the Anderson School Building into a 70-room hotel with abundant amenities to complement and inspire the city's redevelopment vision.

Bothell bought the downtown school site and adjacent property — 18 acres — from the Northshore School District for $20.67 million. McMenamins is paying $7 million for its piece, $2 million in cash and the balance in community benefits. Those include reopening a closed swimming pool, making all the repairs and giving Bothell residents free use for 15 years. There is even talk of bartering extra parking to reopen the pool to high-school swim teams.

So how did the city find the money to buy the property from the School District? Mostly cash, money saved by not spending one-time revenues, but banking them for future opportunities.

The recent Tuesday evening the council voted to proceed with the McMenamins deal, the mood was almost giddy. Speaker after speaker representing the Chamber of Commerce, civic groups, historic-preservation advocates, the University of Washington-Bothell campus and area residents expressed their delight.

Bothell Mayor Mark Lamb and City Manager Robert Stowe have been in the middle of a revitalization effort that is energized by the commitment of a destination hotel and preservation triumph, but the plan is infinitely more ambitious.

Realignment of Highway 522 through Bothell will move traffic faster, but it will also add two new downtown retail blocks. West toward Kenmore, the infamous Wayne Curve will be reconfigured to eliminate a hazardous turn and improve transit service.

A new civic campus will not only house a new City Hall, but also mix housing and retail. The Park at Bothell Landing will be remade, expanded and connected to the downtown. Playgrounds, bikes and boat rentals — all the fun stuff.

Bothell's Main Street, as established as the 101-year-old community, is destined for a jolt of energy and investment. Nearby Highway 527 is being redesigned and christened The Boulevard, as part of a developer-friendly plan to attract retail, entertainment and restaurants.

All the projects create an estimated 8,400 construction jobs and 1,367 permanent positions.

One lure for investors is that the environmental paperwork is done. Developers who share the city's vision, such as McMenamins, can get started.

The depth of community support was confirmed by a Monday walking tour of Main Street, and chats with Paul Desilet of Paul Richards Clothing Store, Jared Holman of Bothell Furniture, and Leida Kaskes of Hillcrest Bakery. Each acknowledged wisps of nervousness about the details; timing, traffic and such. But the big plan, and its pieces, delighted them. All welcome more people and more retail to downtown Bothell.

Desilet said that never in 41 years of business has he heard a majority of people so excited. Quibbles about a streetlight here or there, but the bigger vision stirs excitement.

Lance Dickie's column appears regularly on editorial pages of The Times. His e-mail address is ldickie@seattletimes.com

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