Owner of Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley switches to office conversion

Daryl Ross says building workspace would maximize potential for property near UC

Owner of historic Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley switches to office conversion
Daryl Ross and 2680 Bancroft Way (Getty, Berkeley, Google Maps)

The owner of the historic Bancroft Hotel in Berkeley now wants to turn it into mostly offices, instead of an apartment complex.

Rhoades Planning Group, on behalf of hotel owner Daryl Ross, has filed revised plans to turn the 22-room hotel into offices, while building an eight-story apartment building in the parking lot at 2680 Bancroft Way, the San Francisco Business Times reported.

New plans call for converting the 12,000-square-foot historic landmark into offices, rather than an earlier plan to convert the hotel into 37 homes, including 22 group living units with shared kitchens or bathrooms, and 15 apartments.

The Berkeley-based consultant will retain a plan to redevelop the hotel’s quarter-acre parking lot into an eight-story, 78-unit apartment building.

Mark Rhoades, CEO of Rhoades Planning, said the decision is influenced by the challenging economic climate for hotels in Berkeley following the pandemic. The proposed office conversion aims to maximize the property’s potential, given its proximity to the UC Berkeley campus.

Despite the shift in plans for the hotel, the adjacent apartment building remains in the works. The eight-story structure, measuring 32,500 square feet and featuring 78 studio-sized rooms, will be constructed in the hotel’s parking lot.

Berkeley’s business district office market, which was tight before the pandemic, had a 9.6 percent vacancy rate in the third quarter, according to data from Cushman & Wakefield.

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Meanwhile, the multifamily market experienced tightening in 2021, driven by increased demand for student housing after UC Berkeley reopened its campus. The city witnessed high occupancy levels, with some students sharing rooms to manage rent prices.

Keith Manson, senior vice president at CBRE, noted that recently completed apartments have contributed to lowering occupancy levels. With more units in the pipeline, he anticipates stable occupancy and flattened rents. 

The Berkeley City Council’s recent approval of upzoning in the area south of the university campus, allowing for taller buildings and potential housing growth of more than 2,600 units, further reflects the dynamic real estate landscape in the city.

The Craftsman-style hotel, designed by Walter Steilberg and built in 1928 for the College Women’s Club, is a Berkeley landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places. It later served as a rooming house and a sorority. It was restored and given a seismic renovation, according to its website.  It reopened as the Bancroft Hotel in 1993.

Ross’ family bought the building in the late 1970s, a few years before Ross graduated from UC Berkeley. Ross now owns or operates nearly a half dozen cafes on or near the UC Berkeley campus, including Caffé Strada next door to the hotel. 

— Dana Bartholomew

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