Hostel developer aims for ‘something different’ in SF

A $16 million plan to turn a century-old building into a hostel could bring more backpackers to downtown San Francisco and increase choices for travelers.

With 22 hostels in The City, project sponsor Simon Johnson said he hopes to introduce “something different” to the mix by converting the historic Grant Building at 1095 Market St. Its proximity to Union Square, the Castro district and BART should be a draw for tourists, he said.

“I don’t anticipate any of these guys or girls having cars, it’s cost prohibitive,” Johnson said. “So being able to jump on BART from any airport and be 35 feet from the hotel when you get to The City is key.”

Johnson, who is originally from Australia, said he’s traveled to dozens of hostels and knows many travelers. Travelers often complain that San Francisco hostels lack a common meeting space and a feeling of safety, Johnson said.

To address these concerns, the proposed project will feature a 2,500-square-foot restaurant, a 3,500-square-foot entertainment area and two rooftop terraces, totaling 8,500 square feet, according to documents filed with the Planning Department. It will have a women-only floor for those not wishing to be in a co-ed situation.

The front of the 61,000-square-foot building will be renovated to look like the original building from when it was constructed in 1904, Johnson said.

Adding variety to choices for travelers is beneficial, said Patricia Breslin, executive director of the Hotel Council trade group.

“It is so great that San Francisco can provide a place to stay — and rooming preference — for people for whatever their means are,” she said.

However, Danielle Brumfitt, executive director of Hostelling International — which has three hostels with 620 beds in The City — said there is already a wide variety of choices in San Francisco.

“I do think there is a certain variety and availability now,” she said. “With the economy now, there has been a dip in tourism. I think we have a variety of choice and availability.”

Johnson’s project, if approved, will take up to two years to complete. Johnson said he hopes to begin the project in 2012. It is scheduled to be discussed at Thursday’s Planning Commission meeting.

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

 

Accommodations

61,000 square feet Building space

9 Stories

94 Rooms

486 Beds

2,500 square feet Restaurant

3,500 square feet Entertainment area

8,500 square feet Rooftop terraces

Source: Planning Department

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