|By Donna Hogan, The Tribune, Mesa, Ariz.|
Knight Ridder/Tribune Business News
Jan. 20, 2005 - Paradise Valley's soon-to-be-reborn La Posada Resort is getting a massive $185 million makeover that will elevate it to a world-class property for travelers and luxury home buyers.
And the sprawling 28-acre property at Lincoln Drive and Tatum Boulevard is scrapping the old name along with the tired look and sea of asphalt that flanks the existing entrance. The 26-year-old inn will be dubbed Montelucia when the makeover is completed, said Robert Flaxman, chief executive officer for new owner Crown Realty & Development Corp. It's a combination of the European-flavored word, "monte," meaning mountain and a derivative of the Latin word, "lux," meaning illumination or light.
Flaxman said the name evokes the luxurious setting at the base of Camelback Mountain and the Old World Spanish-flavored architecture that will characterize the resort's new image.
Crown is expected to add a nationally recognized upscale tag -- such as Ritz Carlton, Intercontinental, Four Seasons, St. Regis, Hilton, Marriott or another major luxury brand -- to the resort's name within a few weeks.
Flaxman would not say which affiliation is signing on because the negotiations are not complete.
The property's extravagant renovation budget is six times what Crown paid for the place.
The California-based development company originally planned a $75 million redo, but instead is opting to demolish nearly everything and start over rather than remodel the 26-year-old buildings, Flaxman said.
"We really stepped up the quality level," he said. Crown is aiming for a five-diamond, five-star level resort instead of the four-sparkler status it hoped to collect with the $75 million fix-up, Flaxman said. Only five Arizona resorts, including La Posada neighbor JW Marriott's Camelback Inn, picked up five diamonds this year from AAA. Mobil Travel Guides didn't bestow five stars on any local properties.
Crown plans to close the resort in May and start ripping it up, with a grand reopening planned for fall 2006. The redone resort will have 157 high-end rooms, a signature restaurant, a 30,000-square foot spa, a grand ballroom, meeting space, boutiques and a wedding chapel with outdoor garden.
In addition, Crown intends to sell 66 luxury suites, 24 cabana casitas averaging 1,700 square feet -- the size of a small house, and 34 luxury villas averaging 4,500 square feet -- the size of a large house. Sales offices will open on the property in a few weeks, Flaxman said, but Crown has already been fielding calls from potential buyers.
"We've been blown away by the interest level," he said. "The phone is ringing off the hook." He said the prices haven't been set in stone yet.
"The resort villas should sell somewhat north of $2.5 million," he said.
Crown also bought and closed the nearby Mountain Shadows Resort and is working on redevelopment plans -- a prospect that has worried nearby residents and town officials, who are concerned that the hotel and golf course would be razed for homes.
Flaxman said he has been meeting with local officials and community members. "Talks have been productive," he said.
He would not say how the final plans are firming up.
"I'll just say we are not in the business of slaying sacred cows," Flaxman said.
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