Residence Inn to open in Berkeley

Sara Kirsch Sara Kirsch Uploaded 21 June 2021


US: A Marriott-branded Residence Inn is set to open in October in downtown Berkeley, California.

At 16 floors and 168 feet tall the new Residence Inn is going to be the third-tallest building in the city, which houses the University of California Berkeley - a key anticipated demand driver for the extended stay hotel.

The project was first envisioned partly by Jim Didion, former real estate advisor to UC Berkeley.

The hotel will contain 331 extended stay suites, which include kitchens. The building, which is LEED Gold certified, will also include 15,000 square feet of meeting spaces, filling a substantial need for the city of Berkeley, as well as a rooftop bar and restaurant.

Barbara Hillman, president of Visit Berkeley, said: “We have the number one public university in the world. People come and want to hold meetings there, but we just didn’t have the space to accommodate them, so they would go over to San Francisco and Oakland to hold their conferences. We turned a lot of business away.”

The exterior of the building will be covered in coloured glass. This design is intended to imitate the sky in San Francisco Bay. This design was chosen after much debate. Original designs called for three-dimensional art walls, but those plans were dismissed for the more traditional design.

Edward McFarlan, an architect on the project and principal of JRDV Urban International, said: “I finally realised that actually with Berkeley, the zeitgeist they operate on is very conservative in their view of their city. It’s not love and crazy at all, which is OK. They really love their tradition, as I do – I love downtown Berkeley and the traditional buildings. The only question you ask yourself is, ‘What’s a new building have to be to complement that?’”

The building will incorporate sophisticated technology, such as solar technology, a green roof, a rainwater-collection system, and a roof deck.

McFarlan said: “It’s going to be the hangout because it looks out over the UC campus, over the hills, downtown Oakland, and you can see pieces of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco.”

The street level of the building will be used as a restaurant and a space will be designated for Bank of America, the previous owner of the lot. This Bank of America space will include ATMs, as well as meeting spaces.

The second level will include a parking garage for guests.

The site will be managed by Pyramid Hotel Group, who originally took interest in the project in 2014. When the group told the city that they might need to cancel the project due to rising costs a couple years later, they were granted a $13 million tax abatement in 2018, when construction started. The city says there have been no changes to this tax agreement.

The exact cost of this development is unknown but was estimated to be $125 million in 2018. The hotel was also predicted to generate $4 million per year in 2018.

The new hotel fills a spot in Berkeley that has been vacant since the 1990s.

Hillman said: “We’ve been trying since 1997 to get that spot taken. I worked with the Office of Economic Development to designate that particular area as a hotel-and-conference centre and we had several bites, but it seemed as one bite progressed there was a downturn in the economy. This is the most recent bite coming to fruition, and I’m excited because it’s something Berkeley has needed for a long, long time.”

This hotel will contribute to Berkley’s 2012 Downtown Plan, a plan that aims to make the area more attractive for visitors, including through the addition of taller buildings.

This new development comes along with other recent improvements in the area, including new sidewalks and traffic calming due to renovations on Shattuck, as well as a renovated BART plaza.

John Caner, CEO of the Downtown Berkeley Association said: “I think people want to stay in hotels where there’s a lot of vibrancy and choice. If you were a parent or visiting scholar or tourist, wouldn’t you love to stay in downtown Berkeley and be able to BART into San Francisco or Oakland, or rent a car and go up to wine country?”

The hotel is also in close proximity to the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive.

The director of the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, Julie Rodrigues Widholm, said: “While BAMPFA has deep roots in our local community, we’re also proud to serve a large audience of arts lovers from outside the Bay Area, who will now have an inviting new accommodation option that’s literally right next door to the museum.”

With California expected to lose 150,000 hotel jobs between 2020 and 2021, the new Residence Inn will create 110 jobs.

The hotel will eventually contribute transient-occupancy taxes to the general fund, which is expected to be $2.2 million in 2022. With these taxes, as well as sales and property taxes, the new hotel is expected to become a large tax contributor for the city.

Although the hotel industry is still struggling as a whole, industry officials are hopeful about the future of extended-stay facilities, like the Residence Inn, which were more successful throughout the pandemic. Berkeley officials are also hopeful that school returning in the fall, as well as the university’s football season, will drive more visitors.

Dhruv Patel, president of Ridgemont Hospitality, said:  “Our poor merchants have been under such financial duress during COVID. I’ve been saying to so many people, ‘If we can just hang on until August, students are going to return, people are going to come back to offices, and with the hotel, we are going to bounce back so much faster than I think other downtowns will.’”



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