New Corporate Owners for Hotel Durant, Berkeley Tower

By Richard Brenneman
Friday September 07, 2007

Two major pieces of Berkeley property have changed hands, the Hotel Durant at 2600 Durant Ave. and the Berkeley Tower, a seven-story office building at 2015 Shattuck Ave. 

The six-story 1928 hotel, often used by visitors to the nearby UC Berkeley campus, was acquired by Joie de Vivre Hospitality, Inc.—a fast-growing San Francisco hotel firm. 

The 1983 office building, with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory as its primary tenant, was bought by ScanlanKemperBard, a Portland-based real estate merchant banker. 

The 144-room hotel was designed by architect William H. Weeks, who also designed the landmarked Elmwood Hardware Building. 

The new owner describes itself as “California’s largest boutique hotel company,” with annual revenues of nearly $200 million. 

Founded in 1987 by Stephen T. “Chip” Conley Jr., Joie de Vivre now owns 35 hotels in California, said Dawn Shaloup, the firm’s public relations director. 

“We’re a collection of hospitality businesses based in San Francisco,” she said.  

The company has had a long-standing interest in acquiring an East Bay hotel, and when the firm was contacted by the hotel’s previous owners Buzz and Jeff Gibb, “We were very interested, because it’s such an iconic property,” she said. 

Shaloup said the firm has no immediate plans for the newest acquisition beyond performing a necessary seismic retrofit. 

“We are keeping all 100 of the current employees,” she said. 

Shaloup said the sale closed on Aug. 31. 

The Berkeley Tower, also known to the staff of LBNL as Building 937, is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of the northbound split of Shattuck Avenue at University Avenue. 

While retail businesses operate on the ground floor, the upper six floors are filled with an assortment of lab functions. 

Sale of the Berkeley Tower was part of a $61.5 million, two-building acquisition that also included Jackson Center I & II in Oakland. 

That building’s tenants are also primarily governmental agencies, including Alameda County, the federal Social Security Administration, the National Park Service and the Department of Homeland Security. 

Robert Scanlan, CEO of the new Berkeley Tower owner, said the Berkeley building was a very desirable buy because of its primary tenant. 

Governmental clients “tend to pay their bills on time,” he said. 

Scanlan said, “We’re hopeful the lab will renew at the expiration of its current lease, which ends in April 2009.” 

The company was formed in Portland in spring 1993, he said, and has acquired $2.5 billion in properties since then, with the 2007 total likely to hit $600 million, he said. 

Scanlan said the firm typically holds properties for three to five years, “and we try to create added value in that time,” he said. ScanlanKemperBard has scored major profits for its investors. “If you’d gotten in on everything we’ve done since we started, you’d have made almost a 25 percent rate of return” annually, Scanlan said.