|By Garin Groff, East Valley Tribune,
Mesa, Ariz.McClatchy-Tribune Regional News
June 01, 2012--Mesa is doubtful the long-delayed Gaylord resort will be built after learning the hotel developer is selling its brand to lodging giant Marriott International Inc.
Mesa Mayor Scott Smith said Friday that hopes recently dimmed for the $800 million resort when Gaylord Entertainment Co. opened itself to a takeover.
"It doesn't look very positive for Mesa based on the new business plan," Smith said. "This is not a total surprise because the economy had taken a beating not only on Gaylord but on the entire lodging industry in the Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale market."
Nashville-based Gaylord announced plans to sell its four massive resorts to Marriott for $210 million and said in a statement that it "will no longer view large scale development as a means for growth."
Gaylord said it would stop plans for a new resort in Aurora, Colo., which had become a higher priority than the Arizona expansion. Gaylord did not mention the Mesa resort in its announcement.
Gaylord Vice President Brian Abrahamson on Friday said he didn't have further details about Mesa but that he expected details will emerge as plans evolve for a restructuring that will be complete Jan. 1. Shareholders still need to approve the plan.
Gaylord intends to become a real estate investment trust with a focus on operating hotels smaller than the resorts it now owns. Gaylord has resorts in or near Nashville, Dallas, Orlando and Washington, D.C.
Gaylord won voter approval in 2009 for an incentive package to build a resort of up to 1,500 rooms at Eastmark, which is being developed by Scottsdale-based DMB Associates at the former General Motors Proving Grounds. It would have been Arizona's largest resort and was projected to attract 1 million visitors a year and trigger adjacent development.
Smith said Gaylord probably hasn't reached a definitive decision on the Mesa resort. He gathered the company's transition still has a lot of loose ends based on voice mails he exchanged with executives after the Thursday announcement.
"Their day, as you can imagine, was very, very hectic," Smith said.
He expects to have an extended conversation soon. Smith said Eastmark will remain a strong project even if Gaylord falls through. He believes the area is a logical place for a resort given its proximity to the Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport and a growing employment base.
"Obviously not having Gaylord is a disappointment, but it's not the only game in town," Smith said.
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