Menlo Park council likes what it sees of Menlo Gateway plan | March 18, 2015 | Almanac | Almanac Online |

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News - March 18, 2015

Menlo Park council likes what it sees of Menlo Gateway plan

by Joshua Alvarez

Developer David Bohannon presented revamped plans for the Menlo Gateway development to the Menlo Park City Council on March 10, and the council members appeared to like what they saw.

"I want to make sure we can expedite the process," said Councilman Peter Ohtaki. "I would love to finally see it happen."

The updated plan includes an additional 20 hotel rooms (bringing the total to 250), a decrease in the size of the health and fitness facility, and a new architectural design for the office buildings. Mr. Bohannon introduced a new hotel partner, Ensemble Partners, and hotel brand, Marriott Autograph Collection.

The total project involves constructing three office buildings — totaling 694,000 square feet — three parking garages and the hotel on 16 acres along Independence and Constitution drives, between Bayshore Freeway and Bayfront Expressway.

The changes are expected to result in slightly less traffic and additional tax revenue for the city than were projected for the earlier plan, and the project is expected to exceed the sustainability standards agreed upon in 2010, the developers said.

The city staff plans to conduct a detailed review of the revised project and consult the Planning Commission.

Council members expressed approval of the new plans, agreeing with Mr. Bohannon that they fall within the parameters of the original plans. The council urged city staff to streamline the review process as much as possible.

"Every month we don't build this we lose $300,000 in revenue for our schools," said Mayor Catherine Carlton. She also thanked the developers for the effort to exceed sustainability and environmental standards.

The developers predict the hotel will meet or exceed Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design (LEED) Silver standards and that the office buildings will far exceed LEED Gold standards, possibly reaching Platinum.

In 2010, the council had approved the project. Voters later agreed with the council's decision: 64 percent approved the project by passing ballot Measure T.

"I'm excited to see (the) project come forward now," Mr. Ohtaki said. "I'm impressed with the vision for the hotel. The differences relative to the plan approved by voters are minimal. We are talking about a 20-unit increase for the hotel but a decrease in the fitness center, so there's overall a net decrease of 9,000 square feet."

City staff will verify what impact the complex would have on traffic. Mr. Ohtaki said that while the increase in hotel capacity would invite more traffic, the decrease in the fitness space will help offset the increase.

"I'm also very excited to see this come forward," Councilwoman Kirsten Keith said. "I know it has been a long time. I'm looking forward to the bicycle facilities. That's great to see because more and more people are asking for this. People want to see more pedestrian and bike options. I also think it's great to have the large ballroom and conference space because we don't have that and people have to go elsewhere."

Councilman Rich Cline did not express an opinion on the updates, but asked Mr. Bohannon and his team if any decisions have been made about the use of bird-safe windows, transit options, and the type of hotel service. The developers said they had not yet made any formal decisions, but promised to keep the council updated.

The council directed city staff to present a consent item for the March 24 council meeting that would authorize the staff to begin working with the Planning Commission without further council input.

Councilman Ray Mueller was absent.

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