Hotel, conference center to add to campus’s new ‘front door’

With the UC Regents' recent go-ahead, plans for UC Davis' new hotel, conference center and Graduate School of Management building at the south end of campus are moving forward. Ground breaking for the structures is expected in the fall, and the complex should be complete by the fall of 2004, said John Yates, project director for the facilities.

In mid-March the regents approved the design of the three buildings, whose $35 million price tag will be financed by a private development firm. The San Francisco office of Gensler, a worldwide commercial architectural firm, is designing the facilities.

The firm's design for the conference center features a large two-story vaulted entryway, a grand ballroom for dinner or meetings, and four conference rooms. The rooms open up to the Department of Environmental Horticulture's gardens adjacent to the Buehler Alumni and Visitors Center.

The center will also offer a casual café and a "white tablecloth" restaurant, Yates said. Both eateries, operated by a private developer, will be open to UC Davis employees as well as the public.

"This is the front door to campus, and it's our intention to welcome people," Yates said.

The facilities will greatly increase the ability of UC Davis to hold major conference and other events, Yates said. Recently, most campus conferences have been held at the University Club, which can only accommodate 150 to 200 people. The new center will hold up to 500 conferees.

Together, the conference center and adjacent hotel encompass 118,700 square feet. About 25,000 square feet on the second and third floors of the conference center will be used for offices for some departments in the Office of University Relations and the Internship and Career Center.

The hotel will feature 75 rooms, with six suites, a pool, health club and other amenities.

Last summer, the university tangled with the city of Davis over the project's construction. The city feared that the facilities would hurt downtown business and requested that they be built closer to downtown.

Now relations between the city and UC Davis are cordial, Yates said. At the Regents' meeting newly elected Councilman Ted Puntillo spoke in favor of the hotel and conference center and relayed the support of Mayor Susie Boyd and Councilwoman Ruth Asmundson. The complex is also now endorsed by local hotel owners, the Davis Chamber of Commerce and the Downtown Business Association.

"The key to the success of the project is close coordination with the local hotels," Yates said. The university, he said, plans to offer a shuttle between the center and downtown Davis, where during a large conference, some attendees would likely stay.

Located just steps away from the hotel-conference center, the Graduate School of Management building should, too, prove a boon for the campus, said Dean Robert Smiley. Since 1972 the school's offices have been housed in a "temporary" building, AOB 4, on the east end of campus. And students have taken classes in buildings throughout campus.

"The new building brings our students into more continuous contact with each other and with (faculty)," Smiley said.

The $10 million, 45,000 square-foot structure features offices, meeting rooms and classrooms with Internet linkages and laptop ports. Seats in the classrooms will be arranged in a tiered, horseshoe-shape.

The building should be a great recruiting tool for the campus as well, Smiley said. Typically students tour the UC Davis management school on the same trip as visits to Stanford and UC Berkeley's schools of business. Both schools have new facilities to showcase to potential students. When students get to UC Davis, "They say, 'Is this all there is?'" he said. "It's cost us a number of students."

Through an unofficial fund-raising campaign the school plans to raise $1.5 to 2 million to pay for many of the structure's high-tech upgrades itself. A large donor to the project could have the building named for him or her, Smiley said.

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