Daily Archives: February 15, 2011

Downtown Phoenix is Fighting to Win HeatSync Labs

[Source: Sean Sweat, PhxDowntowner]

Opportunity Alert!

You may or may not have heard of Gangplank.  It’s “a group of connected individuals and small businesses [in downtown Chandler] creating an economy of innovation and creativity in the Valley [that] envisions a new economic engine comprised of collaboration and community.”   The small businesses that operate out of Gangplank are called “anchors”.  I won’t claim to be an expert on the group but, from what I do know, they are a hotbed for innovation, community development, and civic engagement.  Exactly what downtown Phoenix needs more of.

And I think we have a community that can be a wonderful home for such a thing.  So here’s the opportunity: One of Gangplank’s anchors, HeatSync Labs, is looking for a new home due to growth.  Myself and a few others have recently been trying to bring them here to downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync Labs is a non-profit hackerspace – a coworking facility that makes workspace, tools, equipment, and other resources available while creating a community of collaboration and learning-by-doing.  They work with software, electronics, and industrial equipment.  They also organize educational technology events and assist schools in science & engineering education.  This past Friday they just got a big plug from an adorable Ignite 9 speaker.

HeatSync Labs in action

HeatSync Labs is the kind of place that births entrepreneurs and innovators.  These guys create buzz, energy, and would add a brand new dimension to downtown Phoenix.  These kinds of people do things and affect change in ways that don’t always fit Corporate America’s myopic ROI requirements.    These are the people we need downtown.

Here’s just a few of the projects they have on theirroadmap:

  • Nearspace balloon
  • Wearable computing
  • Solar Concentrator
  • 3D printing & scanning
  • Open source night vision
  • Tesla Coil
  • Massive Trebuchet
  • “Junkyard” Battle Bots
  • and more!

HeatSync's nearspace balloon project

The more I learn about these guys, the more I like them.

They want to be along the light rail, and they want to be somewhere that can charge their creative batteries; a place with life and activities.  Mesa and Tempe are pursuing them – and we have to as well.  If downtown Phoenix is going to matter in 10 years, we have to fight for innovators and community contributors like HeatSync Labs.

Creative Commons

There are dozens of reasons why they would improve our downtown, but let me list out just a few:

  • We have lots of lawyers, students, bureaucrats, designers, and retail/restaurants, but no techies.
  • They generally use their space from 6pm-Midnight, which is when we need more people downtown.
  • They would contribute to downtown activities, community development, and hold events that would bring more people downtown.
  • It would be known that one of the best hands-on science education partners is based in Downtown Phoenix.  The collaborative opportunities with the Arizona Science Centeralone are intriguing.
  • As they grow, it would become known that Downtown Phoenix has Arizona’s premiere hackerspace (as opposed to Tempe or Mesa).

So them being here would help us, the residents, small business owners, and general believers of downtown.  They would bring the exact type of energy, intellectualism, ambition, and vision that our downtown needs, and assimilating them into our community will benefit us all.

We’ve found them a great space in downtown’s warehouse district which currently houses other small businesses, serves their very specific equipment needs, and provides them with a wealth of value-added industrial resources and event space opportunities.  It’s the best possible location for both their current and future needs — the kind of space that will fuel their imaginations and help them grow as innovators.  And we want that growth in Downtown Phoenix.

HeatSync having some fun with lasers

But there’s a but.  There’s always a but.

The downtown space, including the build-out, is slightly above their budget.  The Tempe and Mesa governments are in conversations with the non-profit HeatSync Labs, working to find them grants and funds to relocate to their cities.  We must do the same.  We need to write City Hall and encourage them to fight for Phoenix.

But in the absence of small business support from City Hall, we need to pull together as a community and make this happen.  Their move to downtown Phoenix would be a very visible move that would benefit us all in the long-run.  My goal is for Downtowners to raise $2,000 to make it possible for them to move here and give them an incentive to choose us over Tempe or Mesa.  If you will contribute something, even just $10, then please use the button below to email me your name and pledged amount [tax-deductible].  I will present the total pledges to their relocation committee in two weeks.

HeatSyncers' noses to the grindstone

To get things started, I hereby pledge $100. Please post any questions/comments below.

(Note that all HeatSync pictures came from their Flickr account.)

Downtown Phoenix’s Lexington Hotel set to get face-lift

[Source: Megan Neighbor, The Arizona Republic]

New owners aim to lure arts crowd, high-end clients with boutique hotel

A new ownership group targeting a higher-end customer and the arts community plans to begin a $15 million to $20 million renovation of Central Phoenix’s Lexington Hotel by midsummer.

Among the myriad of upgrades: a first-floor art gallery accessible to both visitors and locals.

In early 2012, the property at 1100 N. Central Ave. will re-open as a non-branded boutique hotel and art gallery, said Tim Sprague, a principal at Habitat Metro, one of three development groups that purchased the hotel in January.

Habitat Metro principals Sprague, John Hill and Feliciano Vera will be joined by developers Bond HD LLC, a California-based hospitality group, and McKinney Capital Group LLC, a San Diego real-estate development and finance firm, in the revamping and re-branding of the property.

When complete, the Lexington will join the ranks of other boutique hotels in downtown and central Phoenix, including the Hotel San Carlos, the Clarendon Hotel and the new Westin Phoenix Downtown, which is slated to open in March.

The Lexington’s art gallery should set it apart, Sprague said.

In addition, the property’s face-lift likely will make the “new” Lexington hardly recognizable when compared with its former self. Even its name will change, Sprague said, although he did not say what the new name would be.

Renderings of the post-renovation property show an expanded ground floor where the art gallery will be located. That space will double as a meeting area, Sprague said.

To allow for the 8,000- to 10,000-square-foot expansion, the hotel’s existing porte-cochere, or vehicle entrance, will be enclosed. The Lexington’s existing restaurant will be redone and slightly expanded, and all its 108 rooms will undergo a full remodeling.

The finished product: a three- to four-star hotel with rates averaging between $175 and $200 per night, Sprague said.

That compares to the hotel’s lowest rate of $99 on Feb. 9, according to its website.

“We feel the downtown hospitality market is very ripe in terms of a unique niche arts hotel,” Sprague said. “And from our analysis, there’s a need for additional hotel rooms.”

Habitat Metro has had an interest in downtown for the past several years.

It developed Portland Place Condominiums, a 54-unit complex near the Lexington Hotel on West Portland Street and Central Avenue. A second phase of the condo project was slated to open in 2009 but was halted by the economic downturn. Development will continue when market conditions improve, Sprague said.

The Lexington is the first hotel project for the development group.

Habitat Metro and its partners purchased the property from NCA Hotel Partners LLC for $4.8 million on Jan. 19, documents from IonData show.

That was only about seven months after NCA Hotel Partners, the property’s lender, absorbed the hotel at a foreclosure auction, according to Sprague and filings at the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office.

NCA Hotel Partners was the property’s lender for only a short stint before the property went into foreclosure, Sprague said.

NCA partner Peter Gooding is one of several investors who will finance the Lexington’s renovation project, Sprague said.

Sprague said Habitat Metro would rely heavily on Robert Watson and Paul Guccini of Bond HD to re-brand the hotel and attract guests, he said. Watson and Guccini serve as the president and chief financial officer at Solage Hotels and Resorts, the ownership group of Solage Calistoga in California.

The Lexington’s face-lift will necessitate its temporary closure, starting sometime this summer.

Generating revenue can be tough for hoteliers whose properties aren’t branded, said Tom Silverman, the general manager at Chaparral Suites in Scottsdale.

Since 2000, Silverman’s hotel has been non-branded. From 1980 to 2000, it was part of the Embassy Suites Hotels franchise.

Being associated with a brand name for 20 years helped the hotel establish a base group of clientele, Silverman said.

To maintain that in recent years, Silverman has advertised more heavily. More meeting space was also added to attract business groups.

“When you are independent, you have to be good at everything because you are fighting the chain mentality,” he said.


Lexington Hotel

Location: 1100 N. Central Ave.

Phone: 602-252-2100.

Website: centralphoenixinn .com.

Opened: 1973.

Currently branded: Lexington Collection by Vantage.

Post-renovation branding: Independent (name not released).

Ed: Tim Sprague is the Vice President of the Downtown Voices Coalition.  He had no involvement in the posting of this article on the DVC site.