Update: Construction starts on Menlo Gateway hotel, office complex


Expanded version of story posted earlier.

Shiny golden shovels gripped by hard-hatted developers, officials and locals lifted scoops of dirt during a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, March 23, for Menlo Gateway, the office and hotel complex being built by the Bohannon Development Co. on 16 acres east of U.S. 101 near Marsh Road.

The property has been owned by the Bohannon family for about 80 years, when the grandfather of brothers David and Scott Bohannon purchased it in the 1930s, said David Bohannon.

The development has two phases. The first comprises an 11-story hotel, an eight-story office building, a parking structure, and a fitness facility. In a second phase, two more office buildings totaling 500,000 square feet would be constructed.

The 250-room hotel is due to open in late 2017, the developer said. It is a joint venture of Ensemble Real Estate Investments and AECOM Capital Partners. Cuningham Group Architecture is the project architect and McCartan Interior Design will do the interior design. The hotel will have a flexible indoor/ outdoor meeting and event space.

The first office building is designed to achieve LEED Gold certification and will have collaborative workspaces and an outdoor terrace, the developer said. The architect is Heller Manus Architects.

The 40,000-square-foot fitness facility, which will be located in the parking garage, will have an on-site restaurant called Cafe Vida featuring a "Cal/Mex-inspired" menu, said Patrick Corman, spokesperson for the Menlo Gateway project. The facility will be operated by the Bay Club, a California-based country club network.

The site will have four acres of landscaped open space with pedestrian paths and bike lanes, Mr. Corman said.

There are no detailed designs of the offices and parking structures slated for phase two because they will be constructed on a "build-to-suit the client" basis, said Scott Bohannon, brother of David Bohannon and senior vice president of Bohannon Development. The space is currently being marketed, he said.

Go to the Menlo Gateway website for more information.

Years in the works

The Menlo Gateway project was first brought to the attention of the Menlo Park City Council in 2007, said Menlo Park Mayor Rich Cline. After many meetings, it was decided the development's approval would require the support of the community.

Measure T went on the 2010 ballot and asked voters: "Shall the voters affirm the decision of the Menlo Park City Council to approve the Menlo Gateway project and amend the City's General Plan to permit construction of offices, research and development space, a hotel, health club and restaurant on property located east of Highway 101 near Marsh Road?"

The measure passed with about 65 percent voting yes.

One of the conditions for the project was that the hotel be built before the full office space buildout, said Menlo Park City Councilman Peter Ohtaki. But after Measure T passed, the economic downturn dried up available funding for the hotel, said Scott Bohannon. Only recently has funding became available again, he said.

Mr. Cline said the City Council, during negotiations with the Bohannon developers, supported increasing benefits for nearby residents who would be impacted by the project. "We are still going to make you earn it," he said to the developers.

Call to action

During the groundbreaking ceremony, Rose Bickerstaff, a resident of nearby Belle Haven neighborhood, said she appreciated the project's sustainability features and the work of David Bohannon to earn the respect and trust of the community.

Later in her remarks, though, she issued two calls to action to her audience: first, for developers to hire locally, within the community; and second, for the city of Menlo Park to achieve greater educational equality.

"This community has been bleeding for a long time. A band-aid won't fix it. A tourniquet won't. We are now on the surgeon's table," she said, arguing that not all Menlo Park children have access to the same high quality of education.

While her comments on education weren't directly connected to the Menlo Gateway project, she said, she believed it was important to talk about the issue using the pulpit she had.

"When something is wrong," she said, "I don't care what's happening. There's no perfect time (to speak up). You can't have quality of life without quality of education. That's part of our development."

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