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Desert Mystique Gains Firmer Hold on Hotel Builders

September 22, 1985|EVELYN De WOLFE

The desert area of Coachella Valley, rimmed by the purple-hued San Jacinto and Little San Bernardino mountain ranges, has long been associated with wealth, glamour and golf.

Today, that vast "oasis," dotted with private estates, golf courses, date palms and resort projects, is no longer exclusively a tourist mecca for the elite, and it is significant that Palm Springs is now seeing its first major hotel development since the opening of the Sheraton Plaza about five years ago.

The surrounding desert communities--Indio, Palm Desert, La Quinta, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Indian Wells and Desert Hot Springs are also stepping up hotel development.

Michael Fife, director of marketing for the Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau, said a recent demographic study of visitors to the area, showed that 62% traveled there on vacation, 16% for conventions, 7% on business and 11% combined business and pleasure. Most visitors were from Southern California (59%), 12% from Northern California, 2% or 3% each from New York, Illinois, Washington and Oregon and from the foreign sector, mainly Canadians.

In Palm Springs, new hotel properties include Maxim's de Paris, the first hotel project licensed by Pierre Cardin, owner of the Parisian restaurant. The U. S. project is a joint venture of the Pratt Hotel Co. of Dallas, Texas, and Edward J. De Bartolo Corp. of Youngstown, Ohio. The 194-room, all-suite hotel is under construction and due to open in November at 285 N. Palm Canyon Drive, within the existing Desert Fashion Plaza Mall which has been renovated and doubled

in size. A touch of Cardin will be evident throughout the hotel, including the design of the staff's uniforms.

The Shilo on North Palm Canyon Drive is under construction as a new, 128-unit hotel, and the Marquis, a modern pink stucco structure located near the intersection of Indian Avenue and Tahquitz-McCallum Way, is scheduled to open this month. The $52- million project with 264 rooms (of which 101 are suites), boasts of a 9,500-square-foot ballroom, a 30,000-square-foot exhibit hall and other meeting areas.

The 230-room Spa Hotel at 100 Indian Avenue, built 22 years ago and held by a group of investors from the Midwest, has changed ownership to Palm Springs Spa Associates, of which the managing and primary partners are Eric Friden of Friden Hotel Co., Santa Barbara, and Ben Frankle. Escrow on the property closed this month and the new owners plan a $6- to $8-million renovation to be completed in September of 1986.

The new design by Cioffi & Kaptor of Palm Springs, will add a new exterior with balconies and new technology to the 40,000-square-foot spa. The Spa is the only Palm Springs hotel on land leased from the Indians that is permitted to draw from the Agua Caliente Springs mineral waters.

Also changing significantly is the 475-room Hilton Riviera for which a $16-million renovation plan is currently under way. At present, half of the 475 rooms are closed and being completely refurbished, a new 15,000-square-foot conference center, seating 800, is under construction, and its convention center, with a 2,000-delegate capacity is being renovated. Phase 1 will be completed at the end of the year and Phase 2 will be started next summer.

The desert communities, excluding Palm Springs, now offer about 5,000 rooms. That figure is expected to double by 1988.

Marriott Corp.'s Desert Springs Hotel plans a new twist for a $100-million resort hotel in Palm Desert that will take arriving guests to their rooms via gondola in a waterway that Marriott is building through the lobby. Also planned for that community, at a later date, is a Radisson Hotel and a Red Lion Inn.

Cathedral City's new Desert Princess Hotel, with 300 rooms and 1,050 condominiums is scheduled to open in November at the corner of Vista Chino and Landau roads. A Holiday Inn Inc. has also projected a new facility for that area.

The Grand Champions Resort, an all-suite facility, opening in the fall of 1986, is planned for Indian Wells, and will be located adjacent to the City Hall. Three other hotels, a Stouffer's, Crowne Plaza and a Westin facility are on the drawing boards for that community.

La Quinta will have a PGA West Hotel, a joint venture of Landmark and Sunrise Corp., and two more first-class hotels--The Oaks and the Orchards.

Two or three new hotels for Rancho Mirage are in the planning stages and will be located close to the Marriott Hotel.

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