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Developer Chris Ansley Puts the 3-year-old, 575-room
 JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa Up for Sale
By Becky Pallack, The Arizona Daily Star, TucsonMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

Nov. 10, 2007 - The 3-year-old JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa is up for sale, but guests won't notice any changes from the transfer in ownership except for more improvements, including a planned water slide and a "lazy river."

Marriott will continue to operate the resort, but it was never developer Chris Ansley's intention to hold the property for long, he said. "This is just a natural thing we do during the course of development."

Developers build resorts, allow them to operate until they are stable and then take them to the market to consider offers, said Ansley, whose company, Signature Properties International, also has developed hotels and resorts under the Four Seasons, Westin and Hilton brands.

The development is continuing at Starr Pass, 3800 W. Starr Pass Blvd. A $1.5 million project set for completion in January includes a water slide and a man-made river that will take guests on a winding trip around the buildings.

Ansley wouldn't disclose an asking price; however the 575-room resort has a $165 million mortgage, according to an announcement about refinancing a year ago.

Jones Lang LaSalle, the real estate brokerage that handled the refinancing, now is the sales agent. The broker has given a sales pitch on the property to 250 to 300 prospective buyers, Ansley said.

Starr Pass has been a success, with a high level of revenue per room compared with other resorts, he said. Lots of meeting space and a location near the airport and Downtown have given the resort a boost.

"We've brought into Tucson much larger conventions than Tucson's ever seen before, because we have much larger meeting space," Ansley said.

Jerry Hawkins, vice president for investment properties at CB Richard Ellis, said demand for luxury resort properties is brisk right now, although the $200 million-plus price tag he heard seems a little high.

National investment groups and big hotel groups that buy multiple-property portfolios will be looking at the Starr Pass, he said.

Although a few Tucson residents hold hotel portfolios, it's unlikely Starr Pass will get a local owner, Hawkins said.

Ansley will continue to develop the subdivisions near the resort and will work with the city to master-develop a large property Downtown that he hopes will attract major department-store tenants.

"I have always thought Tucson was ripe for such a Downtown project," he said.

Read the latest news on the local tourism industry at www.AzStarBiz.com.

Did you know ...

Chris Ansley has been developing the Starr Pass area since 1992, when his company, Signature Properties International, bought the original 1,000-acre site for around $15.5 million.

The Toronto native got the city to rename 22nd Street west of Interstate 10 as Starr Pass Boulevard.

--Contact reporter Becky Pallack at 573-4224 or at bpallack@azstarnet.com.

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To see more of The Arizona Daily Star, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.azstarnet.com.

Copyright (c) 2007, The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson

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