UC Davis and partners recently broke ground on a $13 million project to construct a Hyatt Place just off Interstate-80, neighboring the Mondavi Center for the Performing Arts on the UC Davis campus.
The 75-room, 49,000 square foot hotel is expected to be finished by 2010.
The facility will stand alongside two other new buildings: a conference center and a new home for the Graduate School of Management.
“We’ve begun digging the trenches to what we feel is a nice complement to the conference center and graduate school of management,” said Guneet Bajwa, chief operating officer of Presidio Companies, the hospitality development and management company that will oversee construction and operate the new Hyatt Place hotel.
“It’s our position that we’re going to grow a business and accommodate larger conferences that currently we can’t have here because there is not enough hotel room,” said Mary Hayakawa, executive director of Real Estate Services for UC Davis.
The inspiration behind the project was the need to provide sufficient meeting and lodging space for conferences organized by UC Davis faculty and staff, said Chancellor Larry Vanderhoef
“Past conferences have largely taken place in Sacramento because of its adequate hotel space, or conferences went elsewhere entirely,” he said. “So we’ve been losing the opportunity to have people from all over the world come here and get to know the campus.”
Outsourcing both construction and management of the hotel leaves UC Davis on the hook for only minor infrastructure costs.
“We’ve ground leased the property to University Hospitality Group – and they’ll build it without significant cost to UC Davis,” Hayakawa said. “The majority of the cost will be borne by the third party developer.”
This is not a traditional, multi-story Hyatt that adorns many of America’s major cities – but rather a sleek, business class model.
This product is complete with business and personal amenities for the modern traveler,” Bajwa said. “It’s for the Gen X and Gen Y traveler that just wants a nice meal, a room that’s comfortable and has value for the money they spend on it.”
Among the unique amenities in the rooms is an iPod docking station and a Starbucks in the lobby.
When you walk into a hotel, you normally see a front desk – but here you see a Starbucks, complete with a cappuccino machine,” Bajwa said.
Bajwa said that while room prices will vary, they will average out to approximately $140 per night, with both higher and lower options.
The project was not without opposition from the community, especially from local motel and hotel owners who were worried that a new hotel would cut into their opportunities. Blueprints were originally sketched for a 150-room hotel before a series of litigation was brought against the university.
The most serious of which was a 2002 lawsuit filed by Davis resident Norman Rogers, which alleged that the environmental impact report for the project was not in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act.
“There was a lot of community discussion and interest in the project that has since been resolved,” said Karl Mohr, assistant vice chancellor in the Office of Resource Management and Planning, about the litigation that resulted in the 75-room limit to the hotel.
Chancellor Vanderhoef suggested that the room cap may end up a blessing in disguise to the community. Some events will certainly have more attendees that can be contained within the 75-room hotel and will need to stay elsewhere in Davis and travel to the Hyatt Place for business.
“Additionally, those conference attendees will likely eat in local restaurants and shop at local businesses – a plus for our local business community,” Vanderhoef said.
MIKE DORSEY can be reached at email@example.com.