Decades in the works, stars align for Bohannon’s Menlo Park vision

Forgive David Bohannon for taking a smidge longer than his allotted five minutes at the podium Wednesday during the ceremonial groundbreaking for Menlo Gateway, his company’s office and hotel project down the road from theFacebook campus in Menlo Park.

“I’m taking way too long, but what can I say, I’m going to continue,” Bohannon told a crowd gathered under a tent with earth moving equipment in the background.

And why shouldn’t he? The project has been in the works for a decade, enduring endless community meetings, city council and planning commission debates, a citywide referendum (it passed overwhelmingly) and — more recently — a brutal recession that chilled demand for high-end hotel development.

Now Bohannon, president and CEO of the David D. Bohannon Organization, could use a moment to take it all in and reflect.

Making that moment possible: a partnership between Ensemble Real Estate Investments and AECOM Capital to build the 250-room luxury hotel, which will be part of the Marriott Autograph Collection network of upscale boutique hotels and include a Bay Club health club. I first wrote about the hotel plan a year ago, when Bohannon announced the Ensemble involvement but before Ensemble had lined up AECOM as a capital partner. (AECOM Capital is the investment arm of the construction and infrastructure services giant; it was formed in 2013.)

The hotel deal was crucial for getting the larger Menlo Gateway project off the ground because it was baked into city requirements for building any of the office space. With the hotel now under construction, Bohannon is also starting work on the first phase of the office campus — an eight-story, 205,000-square-foot tower at the corner of Marsh Road and Highway 101. Both elements are slated for completion by the end of 2017; another 500,000 square feet of office, in two buildings, will come later.

It’s a momentous milestone for the family-run Bohannon company, which also owns Hillsdale Shopping Center in San Mateo, one of the few family-owned shopping malls in the country.

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