A 16-story hotel has been proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue.  Image: JRDV Urban International
The new design of a 16-story hotel proposed on Center Street at Shattuck Avenue will see a more tapered tower than the one shown here. Image: JRDV Urban International

The developer of the proposed 16-story hotel on Center Street and Shattuck Avenue in downtown Berkeley has nixed the idea of having office space in the building, but will instead include a conference center and condominiums, along with hotel rooms.

Read more about tall building projects in Berkeley.

Jim Didion of Center Street Partners LLC is also bringing in the Pyramid Hotel Group as a financial backer for the project at 2129 Shattuck Ave., according to a recent press release. Pyramid, which currently runs the Berkeley Marina Hotel (officially known as Doubletree by Hilton Berkeley Marina) and formerly operated the Claremont Hotel, will work with Center Street Partners through the entitlement process and to develop the hotel. Didion will stay on as managing partner, according to the press release.

Pyramid is one of the largest independent hotel operators in the country with a “long and successful history in hotel development, financing, and operation and has a particular expertise in developing, renovating, and operating University related projects,” according to the press release. Pyramid has developed hotel projects at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the University of North Carolina, Virginia Tech, Duke, Dartmouth, Florida, MIT and Harvard.

While UC Berkeley has no direct connection with the hotel, the university community is expected to use the facilities.

The hotel would replace the 1970s-era one-story Bank of America building and parking lot on Center and Shattuck and, if approved, transform one of the most visible corners in downtown Berkeley.

Taking away some hotel rooms and adding condominiums at the top of the building will create a more tapered design, according to Matthew Taecker, the principal planner and community liaison for the project. In the new design, the tower will be moved forward closer toward the corner as well, he said. Although no renderings of the current design have been made public yet, Taecker said he thought Berkeley residents would be pleased.

“It really improved the design,” he said. “It’s going to be a more esthetically pleasing tower.”

The developer also decided to add a conference center in lieu of office space, said Taecker. Many of those who saw the first incarnation of the hotel had asked for conference rooms, which are in short supply in Berkeley. There will be a restaurant at the ground level as well, said Taecker.

Didion and Rick Kelleher, the CEO of the Pyramid Hotel Group, will be in town in early February to preview the design to city officials, the Berkeley Architectural Heritage Association, Visit Berkeley and members of Downtown Berkeley Association, among others, said Taecker. They are looking for early feedback.

There will be a public hearing on the new design at the end of February, said Taecker.

“We understand this is only going to be the beginning of the conversation,” he said.

The original design was to include 300 hotel rooms on 12 stories, along with ground-floor commercial space, including a restaurant or bar, and three floors of office space. Eighty parking spaces are planned at an underground level. Developers said they plan to pay to use another 120 spaces in the city-owned garage — slated for demolition and reconstruction — on Center Street across Shattuck to the west.

Taecker declined to specify the number of hotel rooms in the new design, and said Didion and Kelleher would reveal that in February. The new design will still require a zoning variance, though, because the more tapered tower will be wider than 120 feet across, said Taecker. The old design was 220 feet wide in some parts.

New hotel project is a go again after defeat of Measure R (11.06.14)
Berkeley hotel plans halted pending initiative vote (08.07.14)
At B-Side: Implications of downtown Berkeley initiative (07.22.14)
Would new green initiative kill 2 downtown high rises? (05.14.14)
New 16-story hotel proposed for downtown Berkeley (12.19.13)

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Frances Dinkelspiel, Berkeleyside and CItyside co-founder, is a journalist and author. Her first book, Towers of Gold: How One Jewish Immigrant Named Isaias Hellman Created California, published in November...