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Blue Bottle Coffee moving into historic Varsity Theatre

Uploaded: Aug 6, 2014
After passing on Lytton Gateway, Blue Bottle Coffee has quickly laid claim to a new downtown Palo Alto space: the historic Varsity Theatre, which property owner Chop Keenan and tech company SAP are redeveloping into a high-tech hub.

Part of the hub will be a Blue Bottle café, open to the public, inside the former Borders space at 456 University Ave.

Blue Bottle Communications Manager Byard Duncan said the new café will definitely have their typical fare: single-origin and blends as pour-over coffees, espresso drinks and pastries from Blue Bottle's Oakland kitchen.

The hub itself has been dubbed HanaHaus (presumably a techie reference to SAP's HANA technology, an in-memory data platform for real-time analytics and applications). A project application submitted last month described HanaHaus 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."

Above: A rendering of HanaHaus, courtesy City of Palo Alto.

"Blue Bottle Coffee is very excited to be starting with a project as unique and innovative as HanaHaus ? one that both salutes, and tinkers with, traditional café culture," a statement reads.

Third-wave coffee pioneer Blue Bottle, which got its start in Oakland in 2002 and now operates more than 10 locations in the Bay Area and on the East Coast, announced in October 2013 that the company would be opening across from the downtown Palo Alto Caltrain at new development Lytton Gateway. Last month, the company said it had decided against moving forward with that space, but would not say why.

Palo Alto's Historic Resources Board met at 8 a.m. Wednesday morning (Aug. 6) to review the HanaHaus project and gave its unanimous thumbs up.
What is it worth to you?


Posted by Rupert of henzau, a resident of Midtown,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 5:47 am

Elena- the weekly reported on the HRB meeting a couple of days ago:
Web Link
"Palo Alto's Historic Resources Board gave the thumbs up Wednesday to plans for a public "working cafe" in the front courtyard and first floor of the Varsity Theatre, which has been vacant since Borders closed its doors in 2011."

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 9:33 am

I wrote probably 50,000 words in twenty or more posts about this, in opposition and spoke at public hearings a half dozen times, 1994 thru 2011 mostly, but have changed my stance because Chop Keenan, the owner, met with me for 30 minutes, on Channing Street, around the corners from his HQ, and gave me his word that this will "rock".

It's called "constructive engagement". No money was exchanged.

I gave my card to Sanjay Shirole, Lead Global Alliances SAP Startup Focus, a Palo Altan who is the German software giant's point man on this project -- the name connotes a proprietary platform the cafe seeks to popularize, an acronym, HANA- and am offering to bring programming to the site via my company Earthwise Productions, which has produced more than 200 concerts, lectures and screenings here since 1994.

They are building a stage inside, and describe a plan to host 100-capacity events at least once a month (compared to the white paper I wrote for the City of Palo Alto wherein nationally-known concert entities might host 600-capacity events). Meanwhile, thanks mostly to Dennis Backlund and the Save The Varsity committee in 1995, the theatre still has the engineering structure to revert back from offices and lunchrooms to a theatre per se.

Welcome, HanaHous. I love Blue Bottle, from visits to SFMOMA.

Posted by Mark Weiss, a resident of Downtown North,
on Aug 9, 2014 at 9:38 am


Web Link

Posted by neighbor, a resident of another community,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 11:35 am

Now we have blatant campaign PR in the guise of letters on this site. Free advertising I guess.

Posted by Mike Keenly, a resident of Menlo Park: Allied Arts/Stanford Park,
on Aug 11, 2014 at 10:05 pm

No offense, but we shouldn't call this structure a historic theater. It's become a sad and unfortunate caricature of its former self.

Posted by Excited Citizen, a resident of Stanford,
on Aug 25, 2014 at 3:05 pm

I've written about this project before and am even more excited to see the space (when is it set to open exactly?). Given that Blue Bottle has had great coffee shops in Mint Plaza as well as in Oakland, this "Hanahaus" space will be a get a coffee everyday, sit and work, and to meet my friends in Palo Alto. I hope they have a game room!

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