|By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa,
Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Apr. 2, 2008 - You'd never recognize the 40-year-old Holiday Inn at Rural Road and Apache Boulevard in Tempe.
Everything at the tired old hotel property has changed, from the name to the address to the colorful exterior.
After a major makeover that moved the hotel's front entrance from Apache to Rural, the remodeled hotel is slated to reopen April 10 as a Sheraton Four Points.
And as if having one new to Tempe hotel brand isn't enough, the property owners are getting ready to dig up an abandoned nightclub site next door to make way for a first-in-Arizona brand.
Starwood's 150-room, ecoconscious, extended-stay brand, element, is expected to start construction in the fall and open in late 2009, said Neil Richardson, general manager of the new Sheraton Four Points and regional manager for both properties.
Starwood announced plans for the elegant but ecofriendly, all-suite element brand in 2006. The first hotel opened earlier this year in Lexington, Mass. Additional elements are slated to debut in Las Vegas, Irving, Texas and Arundel Mills, Md., this year. Other sites scheduled to open within the next two years include Orlando, Fla., Dulles, Va., and Leawood, Kan.
While hardly anybody has actually seen an element, Starwood describes the new brand as "inspired by Westin Hotels & Resorts, element encourages renewal through a nature-influenced environment."
Both the development of the Tempe element and the redeveloped Sheraton Four Points are by Twenty4Seven Hotels, which bought the Holiday Inn in 2006 for $9 million.
The company spent more than $10 million for the makeover, Richardson said."It's been a full gut and remodel," he said.
"We took the guest rooms down to the steel girders, and turned the lobby around."
The new owners also scrapped three of the 190 rooms because they were too close to elevators and therefore noisy, he said. The owners closed the hotel for seven months to make the changes.
Twenty4Seven decided to change from a Holiday Inn to a Sheraton Four Points before even starting the makeover, Richardson said, because Sheraton parent Starwood "has the best brands in the industry."
The Tempe hotel has some of the brand's newest prototype amenities, Richardson said, from the guest room furniture and single-cup coffee brewer to the large lobby that includes a full-service restaurant, a Seattle's Best coffee bar, a grab-and-go deli, a bar, and seating areas so that customers can dine, drink, or just read and relax in any style lobby setting that suits the mood.
Among the most surprising aspects of the Sheraton, besides the burnt-orange exterior, is the front entrance's relocation from Apache to Rural.
And that required giving the place a new address, 1333 S. Rural Road, said Maureen Richey, sales director. Richey said she expects the new hotel to be a hit with business travelers and with leisure travelers in town for Cactus League spring training and Arizona State University's many sporting and other events.
"Having a wide range of properties makes it easier for the Tempe Convention & Visitors Bureau to sell Tempe as a tourism destination," said Mary Ann Miller, president of the Tempe Chamber of Commerce. "But Tempe also is well-positioned as a (business) relocation destination."
And the big chunk of money Twenty4Seven is putting into the property says something to business watchers, she said.
"The big investment in the area says a lot for our economy and our stability," Miller said, especially in tough economic times when many investors are tightening purse-strings and planned development projects are being put on hold. The chamber offices are adjacent to the two properties, and in fact, landlord Twenty4Seven plans to renovate that building for its long-term tenants as well, Richardson said.
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