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UC Official, City Discuss Plans for Hotel Complex

Friday December 05, 2003

Berkeley’s city planning commissioners got their first chance to question the man behind UC Berkeley’s proposed downtown hotel and convention center Tuesday afternoon, and—among other things—they learned that the complex will likely be shorter than the twelve-story tower sketched in the university’s conceptual drawings. 

Project Manager Kevin Hufferd met with about 20 Berkeley officials and residents, detailing the university’s vision for the property and fielding questions during a cordial two-hour inaugural meeting of a Planning Commission subcommittee on the new development. 

UC plans to acquire the Bank of America branch at the corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street and replace it with a conference center, bank and a hotel of between 175 and 225 rooms. 

During the project’s second phase, Hufferd said, the university will relocate three museums to UC-owned land which currently houses a printing press and a parking lot to the east of the bank. 

Hufferd also revealed that: 

• Eight to ten major hotel operators have expressed interest in the project, and the university has set a Dec. 15 deadline for submittals to their Request for Qualification. 

• A planned underground parking lot at the hotel would hold 100-plus cars, and a new parking lot would be developed on the parallel block of Addison Street to compensate for the demolition of the lot on the corner of Addison and Oxford Street. 

• Relocation of the Berkeley Art Museum, Pacific Film Archive, and Phoebe Hearst Anthropology Museum would likely lag up to two years behind the hotel development while the university worked to secure private funding for that phase of the project. 

Hufferd said he was willing to work with advocates for unearthing Strawberry Creek along Center Street, though he and Mayor Tom Bates cautioned that the budget for the planned development doesn’t include funding for creek restoration. 

Creek proponents—who want to turn the block into a pedestrian-only, environmental showcase anchored by the daylighted creek—suggested that more intensive development, including housing and retail shops, could generate money for creek restoration. They also sought to reduce the anticipated height of the new hotel by building hotel rooms over the adjoining museums. 

Hufferd didn’t discount their ideas and said the university hoped to make the hotel “an environmental showcase.” 

Bates called on creek proponents to work with the city and university to find funding for the restoration, but said he was inclined to put any mitigations the city might receive from the UC project “back into the buildings” and not into the creek plan. 

Ultimately, the UC Board of Regents probably has the final say over the project, but Hufferd promised extensive community involvement, adding he expected community boards would be a part of the planning process.