By Molly • Molly Walker • 

Developer reveals details on KAOS project

That process is under way, but not yet complete. And Emrick said, “It’s critical to the success of this project.”

If and when he gets that piece into place, KAOS will begin to take the form of a prominent three-story structure on a prime Third Street corner.

Emrick said he’s received numerous comments on the name he’s chosen for the project.

While he was looking for a downtown property to buy, in order to develop a hotel and restaurant complex, he toured the former JC Penney building. Upstairs, he ran into a sign with KAOS emblazoned on it.

KAOS turned out to be the call letters of a local radio station that operated in the mid-1960s before fading.

The name intrigued him. What he envisioned was chaotic in a positive sense, suggesting a lot going on — restaurants, bars, hotel rooms, winetasting space, a banquet or conference venue, a catering service and lots of local art, all in one location.

“I’ve been here a lot of years,” said Emrick, a native Oregonian who attended Linfield College before switching to Western Oregon University.

He started working at City Sanitary, now known as Western Oregon Waste, in the early 1970s. He became a partner in 1985 and bought the Koch family share when Ezra Koch retired in 2000. He sold it to California-based Recology in 2010.

Emrick always thought it would be cool to develop a fun, different and interesting destination facility in McMinnville, one that spoke to the wine community. And with the sale, it became something he was in a position to seriously pursue.

“This will give it new life at that end of town,” Emrick said. But he said it’s imperative that he preserve the local character in the interim.

According to Emrick, the building opened as the Bennette and Olsen Garage in 1924. Before being turned into a glass shop, operated by Bob Morton from 1960 to 1997, it saw service as a dry cleaning outlet, he said.

He said the building itself can’t be saved, but much of the material going into it can. It features, for example, some beautiful 2 X 6 tongue-and-groove planks, he said.

One complication is that, like many downtown McMinnville buildings, it shares a wall with its neighboring building to the west. He said that makes tearing down the structure and building a new one in its place a delicate process. 

The upstairs restaurant will be more of a bar and grill style, he said, and its downstairs counterpart more upscale. Emrick calls it a “high-protein house,” saying it will feature buffalo, venison and seafood in addition to steak.

He said he’s planning to develop a wine bar featuring fare from four to five local wineries at a time.

Emrick wants to attract corporate sessions and civic meetings as well as weddings, wedding receptions and other social events. He said there will be a space capable of accommodating a winemaker’s dinner as well.

“This has a lot of moving parts,” he said.

The opening, originally slated for 2014, has been pushed back to 2015. Emrick said he wants to see the complex ready for occupancy by March 15 of that year.

He plans to begin with a soft opening, and host tours and special events during April and May. He said the idea is to have all the kinks worked out in time for the annual wine country weekend, on Memorial Day.

Emrick said that he was having trouble getting the design right until he met architect Nathan Cooprider, a former Mac resident who graduated from Mac High — through an acquaintance.

“He gets the flavor,” Emrick said. “We love what he does.”

He also feels he’s found a great fit with his general contractor, Winsome Construction.

“We’ve been really impressed, really happy,” he said. “What we’re doing is not a normal commercial deal.”

The key, Emrick said, has been to get the feel of the place as comfortable, not glitzy, and blend it with the character of the McMinnville historic district.

“We’ve spent a lot of time making sure the materials fit well,” Emrick said. “It’s got to be right.”

Emrick said the team on the project has spent considerable time vetting various aspects.

“It’s very synergistic,” said Emrick. He said those involved have been enjoying the process of trying to make KAOS “the pearl of McMinnville.”

He was disappointed to delay the opening a year, but said, “Everything has its own course. Projects have a life of their own.”

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