Downtown Palo Alto's iconic Garden Court Hotel, known as much for hosting visiting dignitaries as for opening its doors to local nonprofits and community organizations, is now the el Prado Hotel.
The name change, which hotel operator Ferrado unveiled in February, is part of a rebrand of the Spanish-style boutique hotel at 520 Cowper St. that has been in the works since 2015, said General Manager Brayton Gosling.
El Prado, which means "the meadow" in Spanish, will retain many of the design elements of the Spanish-style courtyard at the 62-room hotel while revamping the interior layout to create "a combination of a high-end, yet casual-feeling design," Gosling said.
Ferrado worked with San Francisco design firm Nicolehollis on the redesign, which takes cues from the existing Spanish design elements, he added.
The hotel will have a new color palette with forest greens, stone blues, touches of terracotta orange and a blend of neutral tones, according to a hotel press release.
The biggest changes will be made to the interior layout. The lobby, which sat on the second floor of the Garden Court hotel above open-air stores, will now be on the first floor. A two-story glass solarium with a second-floor tapas bar will replace the old lobby.
Other changes include an upgraded event space called "The Library," which features a boardroom table, lounge space and rooms equipped with video conferencing capabilities. In total, the hotel will offer 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.
The rebrand marks the end of an era for the luxury boutique hotel that received four stars from Forbes Travel Guide and was consistently voted Best Hotel in the Weekly's annual Best Of edition. During its 35-year operation, the hotel hosted many notable figures from local tech CEOs to New York Times and Washington Post writers and publishers to high-level government officials — one of whom needed a direct line to the White House, according to Barbara Gross, who served as general manager at the hotel from 1999 to 2005.
"The hotel telephone switchboard had to be reengineered to be able to have direct access to the White House," Gross said. "And it was all done through the Secret Service."
Gross played a major role in transforming the hotel into a community destination by providing nonprofits, schools and other local institutions space to hold their events at very low rates and subsidizing the remaining costs.
Stanford Health Care Community Partnerships, Peninsula Stroke Association, TheatreWorks Silicon Valley and several East Palo Alto elementary schools and organizations, including Foundation for a College Education, Dream Catchers and the East Palo Alto Tennis and Tutoring, were among the organizations that the hotel hosted.
"We got to know so many nonprofit groups and connected so many people that it was an extraordinary return on the investment," Gross said.
Gosling said el Prado plans to continue Garden Court's legacy of supporting community organizations.
"This property has such a nostalgia and such a cemented place in the community and people's hearts," he said. "It would not do us any service to move away from that."
Gosling said the hotel is slated to open sometime in late summer.