SAN MATEO -- Members of the incoming class at the Draper University of Heroes can go ahead and book their flights.

Venture capitalist Tim Draper's entrepreneurial school got its final OK late Monday night from the city of San Mateo, clearing the way for the unique educational institution to open April 17. After squeezing more money out of Draper to fund a new agency to manage downtown parking and traffic problems, the City Council gave the project an enthusiastic blessing.

The school will now finish remodeling its three-building campus and choose the remaining candidates for its inaugural class of up to 180 students. The class already includes youths from Nigeria and Venezuela.

"We are focused on recruiting the best students and speakers from around the world," Carol Lo, the school's chief operating officer, said in an email Tuesday, "and designing a mind-blowing experience."

The council's support was near-unanimous as it voted voting 5-0 and 4-1 to approve the conditions for the school. Councilman Brandt Grotte, who voiced several concerns, including worries about the long-term viability of Draper University, provided a solitary vote of dissent.

Councilman Jack Matthews embraced the risk inherent in the ground-breaking project, calling it a startup that will create startups.

"I really think this project will revitalize Third Avenue and bring new energy to our downtown." he said.


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The school, designed to create independent-minded chance-takers, will run four eight-week sessions a year out of the newly refurbished Benjamin Franklin Hotel and a Tudor-style building that once housed an antiques shop, both on Third Avenue. A small building on Fourth Avenue will be used for administration and a school store. Draper purchased the buildings for $15.15 million.

The council agreed to let Draper replace the old hotel signs atop the nine-story edifice with new signs bearing the name of the institution. Mayor David Lim said the historical significance of the building -- built nearly a century ago and last used by United Airlines employees until the 1990s -- is not so great as to prevent its new owner from putting his stamp on it.

"It's not like Greta Garbo was dancing in the ballroom," Lim said.

Deputy Mayor Robert Ross pushed to require Draper to pay a fee to offset the extra tax revenue the city might have obtained in the long term by allowing the Third Avenue properties to be used for retail purposes, but the rest of the council did not go along. He then asked Draper to pay the entire $60,000 in seed money to start a new Transportation Management Agency, but the founder of Draper Fisher Jurvetson balked.

Draper agreed instead to chip in $30,000 toward the agency, double his previous offer, and took Lim up on his suggestion that students at the school spend time brainstorming ways to solve the one of the city's most vexing problems: its lack of parking spaces downtown.

Contact Aaron Kinney at 650-348-4357. Follow him at Twitter.com/kinneytimes.