|San Jose Mercury News, Calif.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Mar. 23, 2005 - Ending weeks of speculation, Stanford University announced Tuesday it will build a luxury hotel on Sand Hill Road that will cater to the highest of the area's high-end capitalists.
The 120-room hotel will be built by Stanford and operated by Rosewood Hotels & Resorts, the Dallas company that manages international luxury hotels including The Carlyle in New York. Officials say the new hotel will be built on a 21-acre wedge near the southeast corner of Sand Hill Road and Interstate 280.
The targeted guest is "essentially a business visitor to the Sand Hill corridor," said Bill Phillips, Stanford's managing director of real estate, referring to the strip that is home to some of Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capitalist firms.
When the hotel opens -- Stanford is aiming for 2008 -- it will most directly compete with the Four Seasons in East Palo Alto, now under construction near Highway 101. Both hotels will be designed by John C. Hill of Palo Alto-based Hill Glazier Architects and offer posh lodgings. When Four Seasons opens this fall, its hotel rooms will start at $375, roughly what Phillips estimates Stanford's lowest-rate room will be.
Phillips said luxury hotels -- which feature large rooms, top-rated restaurants and spas -- are well-suited for a market that includes the wealthy communities of Woodside, Los Altos Hills and Portola Valley.
Officials have been trying to land a hotel here for decades. In the 1980s, the Westin considered building one, but those plans collapsed when the economy did. This time, Stanford approached 10 major hotel chains before settling on Rosewood, said Phillips, who would not disclose terms of the deal.
Rosewood officials did not respond to a Mercury News request for an interview.
Stanford has not yet named or designed the hotel, but promises it will be "low-rise," perhaps two stories, Phillips said. The university also wants to add 100,000 square feet of office space to the 21-acre site.
The land is in Menlo Park. In order to build anything, Stanford first has to win permission from city officials.
The university and city have had a rocky history over development along the Sand Hill corridor. For decades, they butted heads over widening the road. And as rumors of a possible hotel surfaced this winter, some council members immediately grumbled that they didn't want any more construction along the thoroughfare or near the foothills.
Others, however, welcomed a hotel.
Menlo Park Mayor Mickie Winkler said the project would be a boon to an area "very under-served in terms of hotels." And she said she was excited about the hotel taxes -- roughly 12 percent on rooms -- the city would earn.
Councilman Nicholas Jellins said it was hard to come to any conclusions, since so much is unknown, including the hotel's design and potential traffic impacts.
Some of those answers will be revealed as Stanford begins submitting applications for the hotel, which will require changes to both the city's general plan and the area's zoning designation. Phillips hopes to complete the application process by mid-2006.
"We worry every time we go for approvals," he said. But "you've obviously got to go forward with something the community is excited to have."
By Kim Vo and Matthai Chakko Kuruvila
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