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An architect's rendering shows the possible look of a hotel/conference center proposed for Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive, at the entrance to Davis. Courtesy sketch

Local News

Hotel and conference center plan re-emerges

By From page A1 | March 12, 2014

The second time could be the charm.

The owner of University Park Inn and the building housing Caffé Italia once again is proposing a new, bigger hotel and conference center after a previous redevelopment-based financing deal in 2011 fell through after redevelopment was abolished.

Owner Ashok Patel is using a new private financing plan to support a formal planning application for a seven-story hotel and conference center at Richards Boulevard and Olive Drive, essentially moving the ball forward on the 2011 pre-application. Patel also owns other Davis hotels.

The proposed project is for a 120-room hotel on 2.82 acres that includes both a 3,000-square-foot restaurant and a 14,700-square-foot conference center. It would replace the University Park Inn and Suites Hotel’s 43-room establishment and the Caffé Italia space.

There’s more. The project also would include a two-level, 119-space parking garage and 53 surface-level parking spaces, plus a swimming pool, new landscaping and traffic circulation improvements.

The project needs zoning changes, an amendment to a specific plan and a conditional use permit, flagging it as requiring City Council approval to get built. Most building projects require only design review by the Planning Commission.

Mike Webb, Davis director of community development and sustainability, said city staff will review the proposal as submitted and make a recommendation to the Planning Commission, which will review the project and make its recommendation to the City Council.

Webb agreed it was a sign of an improving economy that a financing scheme could be imagined for the project, but some redevelopment funds may come online if ongoing litigation pans out.

“If we do it (with part of the redevelopment funds) it wouldn’t be the order of magnitude we had before,” he said.

In all, the process of approval could take as little as three or four months.

Some of the aspects of the project already have been reviewed because of the pre-application in 2011, Webb said.

“We’re able to begin looking at the project with the pre-application,” he said.

The hotel and conference center plans have been discussed in conjunction with the city’s longer-term development plans for the wedge-shaped Nishi property as part of the Downtown-University Gateway District between UC Davis and Interstate 80.

“They’re fundamentally separate projects,” Mayor Joe Krovoza said. “It’s been talked about since I was first on council and before.”

While the city has not made any decisions to help the project, Krovoza said financing could involve some hotel tax revenue.

“One thing the city wants on the project is the conference space,” he said. “That kind of space is limited on the university (campus).”

Longtime tenant and beloved family restaurant Caffé Italia is searching for a new home.

Owners Shar and Kevin Katz also own an Italian restaurant in Yuba City and recently sold their Davis home to move closer to that business. It’s anticipated by many that the success of keeping Caffé Italia in town will be one source of controversy for the project.

“This is simply what we do,” Shar Katz said of the food business in July 2013. “…and we need to do it to make a living.”

— Reach Dave Ryan at [email protected] or 530-747-8057. Follow him on Twitter at @davewritesnews

Dave Ryan

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