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UC Berkeley Press Release

Development team selected for proposed downtown hotel and conference center near UC Berkeley

– Following a competition that lasted several months, the University of California, Berkeley, has selected a firm to develop a hotel and conference center adjacent to the university.

Carpenter & Company Inc. and UC Berkeley have entered into an exclusive negotiating agreement, and the firm will conduct a six-month feasibility study of constructing the project at the corner of Center Street and Shattuck Avenue.

Carpenter & Company, based in San Francisco and Cambridge, Mass., will work with UC Berkeley, the city of Berkeley, and the Berkeley community on ways to design the hotel project so it would complement the possible development of new space for the campus's world-class but seismically-challenged Berkeley Art Museum/Pacific Film Archive and the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology.

The company, a spokesman said, also will work with the city and community to ensure the project is environmentally sensitive, pedestrian-friendly and a good fit with the downtown arts district.

Carpenter & Company has to its credits similar projects, such as the 293-room Charles Hotel, which it developed and owns, adjacent to Harvard University. Carpenter, in partnership with Starwood Hotels, is also developing the 270-room St. Regis Hotel next to Yerba Buena Gardens and the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. The St. Regis also incorporates a museum into the project.

UC Berkeley project manager Kevin Hufferd called the company "uniquely qualified" for the Berkeley project because of its experience successfully completing and running university-related hotel projects in complex, pedestrian-oriented urban environments.

UC Berkeley convened a panel of internal planners, real estate professionals, and academic officials with the help of an outside real estate consultant in selecting Carpenter.

"This project has the potential to be a showcase project that will help bring excitement and vitality to our downtown," said Berkeley Mayor Tom Bates. "I am pleased that an experienced developer team is on board, and I look forward to working with the university, Carpenter & Company, and the community as the planning process begins."

The developer and UC Berkeley have agreed that the hotel proposal would work within the city's review process due to the project's unique nature, notwithstanding the fact that UC Berkeley could have taken the position that the project is exempt from city zoning regulations, said James Didion, executive real estate advisor to UC Berkeley Chancellor Robert M. Berdahl.

"The university is delighted with the professionalism and experience of the development team, and with the positive approach the city has adopted in conceptually supporting the project," Didion said. "Although the university will not be involved with the development from an ownership perspective, we believe the development will be a very positive addition to Berkeley's downtown environment and will provide needed benefits to the urban fabric and the university."

Richard Friedman, chief executive officer of Carpenter & Company, said, "We have a completely open mind about what this project can become. Our experience in working with civic groups in communities has taught us that the best projects come from collaboration and partnering, coupled with a comprehensive understanding of the financial realities of today's development environment."

The Carpenter & Company team includes Interstate Hotels & Resorts, the nation's largest independent hotel management company, as the potential operator of the hotel and conference center. Carpenter will hire a San Francisco Bay Area urban planner to help with the conceptual configuration for the project.

The hotel would feature between approximately 175 to 200 rooms, with the conference space ranging between 10,000 and 20,000 square feet and related parking. The developer has expressed an interest in adding some housing to the project.

The proposed site of the hotel project is currently owned and occupied by the Bank of America, which is supportive of the proposed redevelopment of the site and will work with the development team to ensure the continued operation of branch service for its customers.

Need for a conference center located near the campus was confirmed in market studies completed by the Berkeley Conference and Business Bureau in 1998 and in another market study last summer.