OAKLAND -- A historic building that had fallen into disrepair and vandalism in the bustling Uptown district of downtown Oakland has gotten a $10 million makeover and will soon be home to international business students.

Lake Merritt Lodge, a one-time hotel and YWCA that was built in 1929, is now renamed Hult Lodge at Lake Merritt, the result of a roof-to-ground renovation that has transformed the six-story, 45,000-square-foot building. Students taking classes at the Hult International Business School in San Francisco will live in the 92-room building, effectively a dormitory for the academic institution.

Workers continue the renovations to the former Lake Merritt Lodge, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The building will serve as a dormitory for
Workers continue the renovations to the former Lake Merritt Lodge, Thursday, Aug. 21, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. The building will serve as a dormitory for graduate students at Hult Business School in San Francisco. (D. Ross Cameron/Bay Area News Group) ( D. ROSS CAMERON )

"I like Oakland, and I love history," said Mahnaz Khazen, the realty entrepreneur who bought the building in 2013 from a bank that had foreclosed on the property. "This being a historic building really appealed to me as a way to create a real improvement."

The revival of the building resulted from a $15 million project that includes a $10 million renovation and a $5 million purchase price, she said.

The makeover has refurbished every one of the rooms, built a student lounge featuring chandeliers, created common areas outside and added high-speed wireless Internet access for the students. Students will have a kitchen, dining area, on-site laundry facilities and around-the-clock security. The building also has a fitness center.


Advertisement

Depending on the length of a stay, prices range from about $11,000 for a 36-week stay in a room for two students to $19,000 for a 51-week stay in cases when a student prefers to room alone, according to a posting on the Hult website. Each room is designed to accommodate two students. The building is fully leased to students for the upcoming fall session.

"Before our renovation, there was crime and a lot of problems in the building," Khazen said. "There was drug dealing and prostitution. It was a big mess."

City officials embraced the project and called it a welcome counterpoint to the problems that had plagued the building.

"This is a major turnaround for this site," Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said in an interview with this newspaper. "They have really upgraded it, yet preserved the historic character of the building."

Hult has signed a long-term lease for the building. Formerly known as the Arthur D. Little School of Management, Hult has campuses in Boston, New York City, London, Dubai and Shanghai, in addition to the Bay Area school.

Students will be across the street from a Whole Foods Market, a few hundred yards away from Lake Merritt and a few blocks from the Uptown District.

The business school dormitory is another addition to what's turning into a more visible rebound for downtown Oakland, said Ken Meyersieck, a senior vice president with Colliers International, a commercial realty firm.

"The downtown, and Uptown in particular, is experiencing a nice, organic surge of growth," Meyersieck said. "People who are living in this part of Oakland, and the students, will find a hip, cool, urban environment. The restaurant scene and the night life are great. It seems like every week or two, a new concept emerges in the area."

Khazen, whose realty ventures include turning an old church on Saratoga-Los Gatos Road in Saratoga into the Bell Tower Bistro, as well as a land assembly in downtown San Jose, is already interested in other projects in downtown Oakland. But for now, her focus is on the final details for the building on Lake Merritt before students arrive within weeks.

"I'm working 14 or 16 hours a day, seven days a week, on this," Khazen said.

Contact George Avalos at 408-859-5167. Follow him at Twitter.com/georgeavalos.