Almanac

News - August 21, 2013

Gateway Project moves ahead

Correction: A story in the print edition of the Almanac's Aug. 21 issue erred in reporting that Bohannon Development Co. had arranged financing to build a hotel, a key part of the Menlo Gateway office-hotel complex. The company says it has not secured financing for the hotel. The Almanac regrets this error.

By Dave Boyce

The Bohannon Development Co. says it is moving ahead with preparing the site for its long-planned Menlo Gateway Project, an office-hotel complex that may involve nearly 1 million square feet of floor space.

The plan is to build the complex on 16 acres spanning Independence and Constitution drives on the east side of U.S. 101.

In addition to a seven-floor hotel, there would be office buildings, a restaurant, parking garages and a fitness club. In 2010, some 65 percent of voters favored Measure T, which allowed developer David Bohannon to build the complex.

One of the fallouts of the project is that TechShop, the do-it-yourself haven at 120 Independence Drive in Menlo Park's industrial zone, has to move. This TechShop, which opened in 2006, is the first of many that have opened across the country.

"It wasn't for lack of love for TechShop," said Scott Bohannon, an executive vice president with the company. "We're now at that juncture" where the planning advances to the preparation of the site.

TechShop, which has been on a month-to-month lease for six years and is the last remaining tenant along Independence Drive, knew about the impending end of their occupancy since the first quarter of 2013, Mr. Bohannon said.

The membership-based TechShop is looking for a new home on the Midpeninsula before its Oct. 31 involuntary departure date, according to a letter addressed to TechShop members from the chief executive.

In his letter, CEO Jim Newton speaks of futile efforts to extend its stay. "In spite of our best efforts, negotiations have failed to produce even a short term extension of our lease to early 2014," he says. TechShop is holding two weekend informational meetings at the site: at noon Saturday, Aug. 24, and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Aug. 25.

With no options available for a lease extension, TechShop is asking members for help in finding a new or temporary home. "All leads will be appreciated," Mr. Newton says in the Aug. 16 letter.

Bohannon Development has no space available that would accommodate TechShop, Mr. Bohannon said.

A temporary shop would include "a reasonable subset of tools, equipment and programs," but would require four months to five months to design and outfit, Mr. Newton says. One alternative would be to close temporarily.

Given its status as the original TechShop from which the others evolved, it's an opportunity to rebuild -- "to build the very best TechShop location yet," Mr. Newton says. But he needs $2.5 million. Along with plans to expand membership and launch a crowd-funding campaign, the company will be seeking to raise the money by asking for $25,000 loans "from members and the local maker community," he says.

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