Billionaire entrepreneur Richard Branson has gone into the hotel business, and he has set his sights on Mountain View, as have several other hotel companies.
City Council members met behind closed doors Tuesday night to discuss the possibility of leasing to Virgin Hotels some city owned parking lots near the downtown train station for a project that might actually increase downtown parking. City officials have been seeking redevelopment proposals for the downtown parking lots for years, and up for discussion are two parking lots on either side of Hope Street, between Evelyn Avenue and Villa Street.
City officials did not reject the proposal Tuesday, and have requested more information before deciding to move ahead.
"Our hopes are to build, as part of a new parking structure, a Virgin Hotel that would help finance the new parking garage on existing lots," said project architect Bill Maston, who is based in Mountain View. "This would be a public benefit that would actually increase available parking in downtown Mountain View while bringing a first-class hotel into the downtown area."
Depending on whether some smaller lots on Evelyn Avenue are incorporated -- including the Voice's old office at 655 West Evelyn Ave. -- the hotel could potentially be constructed directly across Evelyn Avenue from the downtown train station.
Whatever happens may be a marked contrast to the modest buildings on the sites now.
"There's no place for modesty here -- Virgin is recognized and respected across the globe," says the website of the corporate behemoth which has its hand in the cell phone industry, space tourism and Formula One race cars, among hundreds of other things. The hotels would target travelers in the "creative class," its website says. Virgin Hotels has yet to open a hotel since launching in 2010, but makes big claims that it will change the hotel industry. Plans for Virgin's Nashville hotel incorporate a state-of-the-art recording studio.
City Council members may have to consider how many hotels are viable in Mountain View. On April 25 the city received a letter from developer Shashi Group LLC about its interest in building a 200 room, five-story hotel near Google headquarter on a 1.4-acre site at 1625 North Shoreline Blvd. that would be "one of the most technologically advanced in the world," the company wrote. The City Council also wants a hotel on another piece of city land known as the "Moffett Gateway" site at Moffett Boulevard and Highway 101, in order to raise revenue for the city budget through a lucrative long-term land lease. Five developers have made proposals for the site. Most development proposals received for the 6.69-acre Moffett site have included office space along with a hotel, but no housing.
The number of hotel proposals is another sign that the city is in the midst of an unprecedented real estate development boom.