Palo Alto Weekly

News - July 11, 2014

High-tech hub proposed for Palo Alto's Varsity Theatre

Historic building to house new cafe, 'co-working space' under latest proposal

by Gennady Sheyner

Downtown's historic Varsity Theatre could become a cafe and co-working space for various high-tech companies if a proposal by building owner Chop Keenan pans out.

New plans for the landmark University Avenue building list the project applicant as the high-tech giant SAP, which operates out of the Stanford Research Park. The plans state that HANAhaus, as the new space will be called, "will combine aspects of a public cafe, a co-working space and a public forum." It will include an assembly space for more than 100 seats that — while "open to all" — will "cater specifically to the needs of the entrepreneurial community with a focus on innovation in technology and software applications."

The development application brands the new space as a "living laboratory that will explore innovations in the future of work, where dramatic changes in workplace technology, social demographics, cultural trends and globalization are fundamentally changing the meaning, manner and the places in which people work, play, create, connect and relax."

The 1927 building at 456 University, at the intersection with Kipling Street, most recently housed Borders Books, which moved in in 1994 and left in 2011 after Borders declared bankruptcy. Last year, Keenan proposed to turn the building into an accelerator center for Samsung.

The project still includes a major renovation of the historic building and a modification of the first-floor space for creation of a new cafe, a public gathering space and meeting rooms, new exterior doors and windows, according to the plans. The proposal includes no additions to the existing floor area.

Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@paweekly.com.

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