From McCormick's to Montessori
Work is under way to turn a former Beaverton landmark restaurant into a new Montessori school.
Since the beginning of April, shortly after long-time tenant McCormick's Fish House and Lounge abruptly closed its doors, crews have been tackling seismic upgrades, interior upgrades and exterior landscape work in order for the building to be ready for a first group of students in the fall.
Higher Ground, which will operate the new Guidepost Montessori school, was founded in 2016 and has its headquarters in Lake Forest, California. The Beaverton school is the organization's first location in Oregon.
The company selected Beaverton based on a list of criteria that includes a family-oriented suburban community, neighborhoods with children ages 0 to 9, an identified need for pre-school services and existing competition.
"We look at up to 12 competitors (in an area)," Camille Pratt, senior marketing director for Higher Ground, said. "The biggest thing is really how many locations have a wait list. We're also looking at their tuition rates."
The building that formerly housed the McCormick's restaurant also offered some features the company finds attractive: location on a main road or near the center of town, accessibility, curb appeal and visibility from the road.
"We also consider attributes about (a building's) architecture — (if it has) some good bones," Pratt said. "We still usually have to do substantial construction on the inside. Montessori classrooms are typically double the size of a traditional preschool classroom. We also like spaces with a lot of natural light (because) environment is very important to the Montessori method."
Retrofitting the building on Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway to serve as an educational facility required some major pre-planning, according to Pratt and Joe Hughes, the owner of Joe Hughes Construction, the project's general contractor.
Built in the early 1970s, the building originally housed a restaurant called the Rusty Mill, according to Hughes, who grew up in the Beaverton area. When that restaurant closed, McCormick and Schmick's opened a restaurant specializing in seafood and
steaks. The bar area, with a large fireplace and stained glass accents, became a favorite watering hole for locals.
When McCormick's closed its doors at the end of March, the company issued a statement indicating it had decided not to renew its lease, which had expired.
Within a few days, crews had started demolishing the interior of the building, Hughes said. Unique stained glass features were removed, as were light fixtures, tables and booths.
"We basically gutted the building," Hughes told the Business Tribune.
As part of the renovation, workers removed 45 years' worth of trees and landscaping along the side of the building that led to a back parking lot. The trees were sent to a local mill, Hughes said. Retaining walls were added along the side of the building.
The back parking lot area was leveled and is being turned into playground spaces.
A back portion of the restaurant building that was added as an extension was updated to include windows.
Inside the building, old wood paneling and finishes were removed. New weight-bearing structural elements were added throughout the building, bringing it up to date with current seismic codes.
A patio section that was used for outdoor restaurant seating also will be converted into an outdoor secured play area. An ADA-compliant ramp will be installed from the building to the street-level sidewalk. Parking spaces will remain at the front of the property.
Construction work on the building is scheduled to be completed by the end of July, Hughes said.
The school is already about one-third of the way to full enrollment, according to Pratt.
"Beaverton has ... had a lot of interest so far," she said.
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