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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Rosario Resort on Orcas Island reopens, promises new amenities

Rosario Resort on April 14, 2019, on Orcas Island, Washington.   (Dreamstime/Dreamstime/TNS)
By Heidi Groover Seattle Times The Seattle Times

SEATTLE – After a brief closure and an ownership change, Orcas Island’s Rosario Resort has partially reopened to guests as the busy summer season approaches.

The resort’s new owner, Empower Investing, said Wednesday it will immediately begin operating and taking reservations for lodging, weddings, events and the marina. The Moran Mansion, which houses the resort’s restaurant and spa, remains closed for renovations.

Rosario’s new owners are hinting at big changes for the property but so far keeping specifics mum, saying they are “focused on plans to add many other amenities to the property and will announce them as they are ready.”

Empower Investing founder Chris Robison said in an interview he plans some additional housing and lodging at the site, but he was cautious to not offer details because plans are “not set in stone yet.”

“The high-level vision is we understand Orcas Island and the unique community it is, so (we are) leaning into that and preserving this piece of history,” said Robison, who moved to the island in 2016. “We’re not making it a Cancun-style resort.”

The company plans to keep changes “in alignment with the vibe and the culture of the island,” Robison said.

The historic waterfront resort closed temporarily in February and laid off 45 employees as it transitioned to a new owner. It’s unclear how many of those employees the resort will rehire.

The sale will take place over multiple transactions, with the first portion closing this week for $6.65 million, according to county property records. The total price will be more than $20 million, Robison said.

An ownership transition for one of the San Juan Islands’ well-known resorts is a rare event. “It is not just unusual, it’s totally unique (when) properties like this come up,” Compass agent Kevin Ranker, who represented the buyers, said in an interview.

But changes to the 84-acre property will take time. Robison did not have an estimate for when the mansion would reopen, and other renovations could take years. “None of these changes will be immediate.”