Nearly eight years after voters agreed to allow construction of a hotel at 200 Independence Drive, Menlo Park Mayor Peter Ohtaki took a pair of oversized ceremonial scissors and snipped a ribbon signaling the formal opening of the 11-story, 250-room Hotel Nia.
The project, he announced, was "nearly 10 years in the making."
While the grand opening carried a decided tone of joviality – the chant "I say Hotel, you say Nia!" was recited more than once – the project was once a topic of serious tension.
In 2010, the Menlo Park City Council approved the Bohannon Companies' "Menlo Gateway" project – three office buildings and a hotel – 4-1, but the council voted to bring the final approval to voters.
The ballot measure, Measure T, passed with 65 percent of the vote in 2010. At the time, the proposed hotel was to be a 30-room, seven-floor hotel, with a 4,285-square-foot restaurant and a 70,000-square-foot fitness club, alongside a complex of three office buildings and parking garages. Then, in 2015, the city approved a conditional development permit allowing the expansion of the hotel project to its current status: 250 rooms, about 24,000 square feet more of space at the hotel, and a health and fitness facility that's 28,000 square feet smaller than originally planned.
The "Menlo Gateway" project, as it's called, is being done in two phases. The first phase includes the hotel and one of the office buildings. That office building has already opened, and is being leased by Facebook. The other two planned offices have not yet started construction and are also planned be leased by Facebook.
At the opening ceremony, the hotel's general manager, Simone Harms, called it an "oasis from the stress of Silicon Valley" and noted she thinks the hotel has an innovative design, with features that emphasize natural lighting.
Rooms will likely run $300 to $400 a night and up on weekdays and in the mid-$200s on weekends, she said.
The on-site restaurant, Porta Blu, which has a California/Mediterranean theme, is scheduled to open in early April. An on-site cafe, Santa Cruz-based Verve Coffee, is open for business.
Per an agreement between the developer and the city, a series of local hiring events were held to hire people who live in the area and thereby reduce traffic. According to 2010 estimates, the hotel is expected to generate $1.4 million a year in hotel taxes for the city.
The property was developed by Ensemble Real Estate Investments and AECOM Capital and is operated by Sage Hospitality, according to a press release.
During a tour of the spacious ballroom, Fran Dehn, president and CEO of the Menlo Park Chamber of Commerce told The Almanac, "It was worth the wait."