WALNUT CREEK -- While the development du jour lately has typically been an apartment complex, something that hasn't been built in Walnut Creek for decades may be on the horizon -- a hotel.
With about 100 rooms, the hotel may be built on the site of a former gas station at Ygnacio Valley Road and Civic Drive, according to developer Mark Hall. Hall Equities Group recently acquired the southwest corner site and said while many details have not been decided -- no formal application has been filed with the city -- a hotel at 699 Ygnacio Valley is what he plans to pursue and propose, he said.
"I think it's too busy for residential," said Hall, who has a 100-unit apartment building under construction around the corner on the far-less-busy Arroyo Way. "Look, I always think, 'Would I want to live there?' You have to build what you think makes sense, and it's too busy, loud and noisy for apartments (on Ygnacio). I just really feel that the highest and best use is a hotel, and the city sorely needs it."
That may be true, as city leaders for years have heard from industry experts that the demand for hotel rooms in Walnut Creek is there, but supply is lacking. Though officials have often said how much they want a boutique hotel in the center of the shopping and dining district, Hall's plan -- while on the outskirts of downtown -- doesn't necessarily fit the bill.
"I have been wanting to build a hotel for some time; people know that I have been focused on this," Hall said. "I would love to have a site that is in central downtown with 250 rooms and a convention center, but the reality is you just can't find a piece that works."
Hall said he thinks there is room for four or five more hotels in Walnut Creek, joining mainstays such as the Holiday Inn Express and Marriott on North Main Street.
And the revenue from the city's transient occupancy tax may prove hotels could be a fruitful industry for the city. While sales tax revenues plummeted during the recession and are only now almost back to where they were in 2007, hotel tax income for the city actually went up between 2007 and 2011 to $1.4 million, according to Ron Gerber, Walnut Creek's economic development manager. And according to the most recent year-end report, revenue from the tax has gone up 24 percent since 2007.
"We don't have a lot of hotels here, but in terms of diversifying our economic base, you can see the resiliency in the hotel market," he said. "It was almost startling."
Gerber said that, from the industry experts he has talked to, Walnut Creek is an ideal market for a boutique hotel. But it will take the right location for the right price.
For the proposed future hotel on Ygnacio Valley, Hall is unsure whether it will be a brand-name hotel -- a Holiday Inn or Hampton Inn, for instance -- or a boutique hotel, but he has been in touch with many brand-name hotels. Also up in the air is whether there will be a restaurant, or if the hotel will be geared to longer-term stays.
More certain is that the hotel will be contemporary and architecturally significant, with interesting features.
The location is "sort of the gateway to the downtown," Hall said. "This will not be your standard airport stucco hotel."
Hall touts the location as ideal because it can serve patrons of either of the two hospitals in Walnut Creek. It's also close enough to Shadelands Business Park for business-traveler use, not too far from BART and relatively close to restaurants and shopping.
Hall Equities owns three hotels in Las Vegas and has done other hotels in the past.
While Hall plans to file an official application for the project with city planners in the next three months, a likely hurdle will be how a hotel on that corner will affect traffic downtown. A traffic study will examine whether a hotel would make for more or fewer daily trips than the former gas station, Hall said.
Contact Elisabeth Nardi at 925-952-2617.