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Dec. 4, 2021

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McMenamins construction to start soon

30,000-square-foot Kalama hotel, brewpub will open next year

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(Collins Architectural Services)
(Collins Architectural Services) Photo Gallery

KALAMA — Portland-based McMenamins is on track to open its planned hotel, restaurant and brewpub at the Port of Kalama next year, its owner and general manager said this week.

Dan McMenamin, owner and general manager, updated the project for Kalama Chamber of Commerce members this week.

He said other businesses in the Kalama area should benefit from the hotel his company will open at the Port of Kalama next fall.

“We’ve had pretty good success with local businesses growing up around our locations with foot traffic going in and out,” he said.

For example, the opening of the Kennedy School in Portland boosted efforts to revitalize the surrounding neighborhood. Within a year, New Seasons opened one of its upscale organic grocery stores nearby, McMenamin said.

McMenamin said his firm focuses on sourcing from local companies. For example, Kalama-based Mountain Log Homes helped design a small log house/bar that will be built along the river trails nearby. And McMenamins is considering sourcing bread from Kalama Sourdough Bakery. McMenamins also puts on periodic events in which half of the proceeds from a particular day are donated to local schools.

The hotel and restaurant chain offers a passport program that encourages loyal customers to travel to as many of its locations as possible. Every year the company throws a party to reward participants, and in recent years 1,000 people attended, McMenamin said.

The passport program pushes guests to visit places they might not have visited otherwise, said Renee Ignacio, director of marketing for McMenamins.

And because the company’s hotels are typically smaller, when concerts or larger events come to town, that drives overflowing customers to nearby hotels, Ignacio said.

“Our peak times have become their peak times. … It’s been actually a great community tie. … The effects definitely extend beyond on our borders,” Ignacio said.

Portland-based McMenamins owns brewpubs, breweries, music venues, historic hotels and theater pubs across Oregon and Washington.

The three-story, 30,000-square-foot Kalama hotel will have just 40 rooms. The first floor will have a brewery, restaurant/pub and bottle shop as well as meeting/banquet space. The hotel will be about the size of the new port administration building, minus the interpretive space, said Port of Kalama Director Mark Wilson.

The port will build an $8.3 million shell for the hotel and restaurant, with the help of a $250,000 grant from Cowlitz County. The port will then lease out the space to McMenamins.

Wilson said the port hopes to hand over the keys to McMenamins by late spring. The Portland-based company will then spend several months and about $3 million finishing the building with unique touches and design flourishes. Starting in the spring, McMenamins will likely begin its search for about 75 to 100 employees to work at the hotel and restaurant.

The building will be modeled after an early 1900s-era Hawaiian inn, with tropical and native touches blending with elements of Kalama’s history. Kalama is named for John Kalama, a native Hawaiian islander who worked for the British Hudson’s Bay Co., first at Fort Nisqually and later on the HBC Cowlitz Farm. (The town’s Hawaiian connection was in itself a draw for McMenamin, who said he has been intrigued by Polynesian cultures from a young age.)

McMenamins has a team of full-time historians who are working to gather stories and memorabilia from the local area so that the art and styling matches the town’s character, Ignancio said.

Construction is about to get underway in earnest. Contractors with Advanced Geosolutions will soon build concrete pilings to keep the building stable in earthquakes. The port is now accepting bids for construction of the actual building.

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