|By Will Oremus, Palo Alto Daily News,
Calif.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Sep. 12, 2008 Like so many other Silicon Valley businesses, Ming's Restaurant hasn't been quite as busy since the dot-com bust of 2001.
"Before the high-tech blow-up, it was great," said Wu Hsiang, husband of the restaurant's owner, Vicky Ching. "But now the place is too large. We never really recovered from it."
Fortunately, the couple owns the 110,000-square-foot site at Embarcadero and East Bayshore roads. So rather than giving up on Ming's, they're planning to roll it into something much bigger: A four-story, 160-room hotel aimed at business travelers. Ming's would become the hotel restaurant.
Long-rumored, the project is now moving toward reality. In a preliminary review Wednesday, the Palo Alto Planning and Transportation Commission said the concept seems workable.
Early plans call for replacing the 15,000-square-foot restaurant with a 50-foot-tall, 123,000-square-foot hotel, with rooms varying from studios to two-bedroom units. The rooms would come with kitchen facilities and be available for weekly rent, making them attractive to businesspeople visiting Silicon Valley and Stanford University from Asia and other faraway places.
Ching would still run Ming's, but it would shrink to a more manageable 4,753 square feet.
Hsiang said he originally envisioned a five-star hotel on the site, but that turned out to be impracticable, especially with the new Four Seasons hotel so close. Research, however, showed that a business hotel could work well.
Architect John Northway said the building would be designed in a contemporary style to meet the highest environmental standards. Green terraces and rooftop gardens would be prominent.
The prospect of new hotel tax revenues for the city makes the project more attractive to officials, said planner Kathy Marx. Still, it will go through an extensive series of meetings as the developers seek a zoning change and eventual approval. The next step will be to return to the Planning and Transportation Commission with a formal request.
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