UC Downtown Hotel Project Moves Closer to Reality

By Richard Brenneman
Tuesday June 06, 2006

UC Berkeley’s plans for a high-rise hotel and conference center in downtown Berkeley are moving closer to reality, a university official said Monday. 

“There’s nothing signed yet, but we are in general agreement on the broad issues,” said UC Capital Projects Senior Planner Kevin Hufferd. 

Carpenter and Company, the Boston developer working with the university on the project, has scheduled a June 14 reception to unveil their preliminary plans. 

“We are committed to designing the downtown hotel/conference center consistent with the Berkeley Planning Commission Task Force recommendations,” wrote company President Dick Friedman in a letter to City Councilmember Kriss Worthington.  

The task force he cited was the UC Hotel Task Force, set up by the Planning Commission to offer guidelines for the project, planned for the northeast corner of Shattuck Avenue and Center Street. 

“There’s been no formal application,” said Berkeley Planning Director Dan Marks. “We’ve had some informal conversations, and we have suggested they need to fold the project into the downtown planning process.” 

Carpenter and Company has already picked a name for the new facility—the Berkeley Charles Hotel, named for Charles Square in Boston, where the company has headquartered. 

“We are very excited about this opportunity and want to share our enthusiasm with you and other community leaders,” Friedman wrote. 

During the June 12 reception and conference in the Berkeley Rep’s Roda Theatre, Friedman said his company would be “introducing our team and company background as well as our vision of the Berkeley Charles Hotel.” 

Marks said the hotel project would need several zoning ordinance modifications, “and if they want those, they need to engage in the downtown planning process.” 

That process, embodied in the Downtown Area Plan Advisory Committee, is currently engaged in shaping a new plan for an expanded downtown area. 

That plan is mandated as one of the terms of the settlement of a city lawsuit filed against the university’s Long Range Development Plan for 2020, which includes a massive expansion of university use in the downtown. 

The hotel complex would be located at the site of the current Bank of America branch. 

Hufferd agreed. “This has to work through the planning process,” he said. 

If approved, the project would add a third highrise to the intersection that already houses Berkeley’s two tallest commercial buildings, the Wells Fargo Bank and Power Bar buildings on the western side of Shattuck. Another high-rise, the nine-story Berkeley Arpeggio condos, is scheduled to rise soon in the middle of the block of Center Street immediately to the west. 

“I’m not sure when there’ll actually be a ground-breaking,” said Hufferd. “There’s still a lot to work out.” 

Carpenter and Company has worked closely with Starwood Resorts, the parent company of the firm, which is the planned operator of another hotel planned for downtown Berkeley, the revamped Shattuck Hotel, also on Shattuck a block to the south.