By Meghan Hall
As San José has developed, it has increasingly become a hub for business travelers. The city’s close proximity to international airports, along with its reputation for being home to numerous international tech conglomerates, has made San José a necessary destination for traveling business professionals. In response to shifting demographics, developers such as Westlake Urban are converting under-utilized office space into select service business hotels.
San Mateo-based developer Westlake Urban is currently working with both the City of San José and Hilton Worldwide to redevelop 111 East Gish Road. Current plans for the 2.2 acre site would demolish the existing two story, 56,640 square foot office building, which was originally built in 1971. In its place, a new five story, 150 room Hilton Garden Inn and 160 grade-level parking spaces will be built.
“Having a location that’s half a mile to the international airport in a city that’s having tremendous growth kind of makes sense,” says Donovan Cole, Westlake Urban’s development manager. “There has been a bunch of other hotels growing up, so it’s a natural sort of fit.”
The hotel will feature several small meeting spaces and a spacious gym on the fourth floor. The site is within walking distance to numerous restaurants and a bowling alley. An Enterprise Rent-A-Car is also less than a block away, while Interstate 880 and U.S. Route 101 are less than a half-mile away.
While Westlake Urban has built a diverse real estate portfolio ranging from mixed-use to residential developments over the course of the 45 years the company has been in the Bay Area, this is the developers first foray into the hotel industry.
North San José’s changing market prompted Westlake Urban’s decision to redevelop the East Gish Road property, as office space in Northern San José is less in demand than real estate closer to major tech campuses or offices in the core of downtown. Cole also emphasized the importance of keeping the property for commercial uses as a factor in its decision to redevelop the site into a hotel, rather than a mixed-use or residential development.
“North San José is kind of specific to its own self, and it was important for the City to maintain a kind of commercial-use space on this site,” explains Donovan. “San José is very sensitive to commercial properties because once you go residential, you can’t go back. With all of these Silicon Valley giants nearby, we’re in that commercial area that San José is trying to protect.”
Westlake Urban has procured a franchising agreement with Hilton Worldwide, and Cole says that Hilton has been instrumental in helping Westlake Urban navigate the ins and outs of the hotel industry. The company hopes Hilton’s strong brand reputation will aid the new hotel in setting itself apart from the nearby Four Points Sheraton and Holiday Inn hotels.
“We couldn’t be more excited to partner with Hilton and have their whole brand power behind this property,” said Cole. “There’s three big hotel groups out there, and Hilton is one of them.”
According to Cole, the new Hilton Garden Inn in San José will be part of Hilton’s revamped marketing paradigm called “Brighthearted,” which aims to create sophisticated but comfortable accommodations for guests.
As is typical with many large hotel chains, while Hilton manages the branding and Westlake Urban maintains ownership of the property, the developer is looking into hiring a hotel operating company to take care of the daily aspects of running a hotel. However, because the hotel is still in the planning stages, no hotel operating company has been selected yet.
According to Genevieve Singh, San José’s public information manager, the City Planning Department is currently reviewing the project’s site development permit. The project is also being reviewed by the City’s Fire, Building and Public Works Departments.
“Once all of those reviews are complete, the project can be scheduled for public hearing,” said Singh.
According to Cole, Westlake Urban is aiming to break ground in August or September of 2018. Demolition of the current building and hardscape will likely take four to six weeks; grading will take and additional two to three. Construction is slated to take about 14 months, and the new Hilton Garden Inn is expected to open in January or February of 2020.