A 28-year-old hotel, resort and conference center in the forest along Skyline Boulevard is taking on yet another identity after being acquired by Canyon Ranch, a chain of "wellness resorts" that also owns properties in Massachusetts and Arizona.
The Canyon Ranch Wellness Retreat Woodside, which will open Nov. 1 after a renovation of the property's 38 rooms is complete, was previously known as the Skylonda Lodge, among other names.
Canyon Ranch, located at 16350 Skyline Boulevard, will offer a choice of three-day, four-day and weeklong retreat packages, and will also host conferences, according to Hannah Rodbell, the company's New York-based publicity agent.
Guests will be encouraged to take advantage of the property's 16 acres of grounds and hiking trails, as well as a therapy pool and spa services; yoga, tai chi and fitness classes; meditation sessions; and a restaurant with communal tables.
The restaurant, called The Hearth, will be run by executive chef Isabelle Jackson Nunes. A sample menu indicates it will feature locally made products, including a chevre and lavender tart made with Harley Farms cheese, Acme bread and a flatbread made with Markegard Ranch beef. There will also be a bar and lounge, called The Hideaway, offering "local libations including natural, biodynamic and organic wine, beer and ciders," according to the Canyon Ranch website.
"You can sign up with a retreat with organized activities, and we will also be hosting corporate retreats where you can book out most of the property," Rodbell said.
The Canyon Ranch website advertises the resort's convenient access to Silicon Valley companies, including Facebook, Apple and Google, as well as to venture capital firms along Sand Hill Road in Menlo Park. It invites potential guests to "come with intention or let us help you find your way to a full rebirth of mind, body, spirit and soul." A search of the site's reservation system shows rooms with a single queen bed starting at $1,089 per night. A four-night, five-day retreat, which includes a room with two queen beds, is listed for $989 per night.
The facility has had a string of owners prior to its current incarnation, including the Stillheart Institute, operated by Joan Porter and her husband Bill, who was the founder of the online investment trading site E-Trade, according to a flyer on the property by commercial real broker Cushman & Wakefield.
Stillheart's mission was "to provide a world-class retreat and learning center for groups ranging from corporate to educational to spiritual," according to the flyer.
The Porters added 24 elevated "tree houses" to the original three-story, 14-room structure in 2009.
"The rooms were kind of basic, and they're being upgraded and renovated,"
Rodbell said. "We're not changing too much of the structure itself."
The facility was also the subject of a controversy in 2014 after the operators at the time received approval from the San Mateo County Planning Commission to use the property as a drug rehabilitation center.
But, after complaints from neighbors "concerned that a former addict might, for example, drop a lit cigarette and start a forest fire," the county Board of Supervisors reversed that decision, according to a 2017 Almanac story.
The operators sued in 2015 on the grounds that the supervisors' action violated federal fair housing and disability laws that protected the rights of potential clients.
The county quickly settled the suit for a reported $350,000, but without admitting fault, liability or wrongdoing, according to the story.
"The county's primary goal was to ensure that a more intensive use did not occur at the site, and the county achieved this goal through the settlement," said the county's attorney, John Beiers, at the time.
The county spent about $900,000 defending itself, Beiers said.