[Source: Lynn Ducey and Jan Buchholz, Phoenix Business Journal] — Two new hotel brands now call Downtown Phoenix home, after Phoenix City Council approved separate development deals paving the way for the properties. Council members OK’d one deal One Central Park East that includes plans for a 280-room Westin hotel and corporate headquarters for Freeport-McMoRan Copper and Gold Inc., and another that rebrands the existing 520-room Wyndham hotel as a Marriott Renaissance. “We are very happy. Christmas has come early,” said Steve Moore, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We now will have the power of the Marriott brand in downtown Phoenix and the Westin gives our downtown Sheraton guests an opportunity to upgrade.”
Council members unanimously approved a development agreement known as a Government Property Lease Excise Tax, or GPLET, incentive program for the One Central Park East project. The Westin hotel would be a tenant inside the newly constructed building, which also would house Freeport’s headquarters. They also voted 6-2 in favor of a development deal with Phoenix Hotel Ventures LLC, which would result in the rebranding of the Wyndham into a Marriott Renaissance. Vice Mayor Tom Simplot and Councilman Michael Nowakowski voted against the proposal.
Simplot said the difference for him was that the Westin project was a modification of an existing GPLET that led to the construction of One Central Park East, which is built out, yet unoccupied. In contrast, the Wyndham is an existing property. “Councilman Nowakowski and I agree philosophically. Personally, I believe GPLETS should be used sparingly for projects that simply aren’t viable without them,” Simplot said after the meeting Wednesday.
Council members voted unanimously in favor of the One Central Park East Project. Proponents said the projects would create and retain additional jobs, create a future revenue stream for bed and sales taxes across the city, county and state levels and keep Phoenix on a competitive par for group meeting and bookings at the Phoenix Convention Center with similar-sized cities, such as Denver and San Diego.
In addition, the Wyndham project will result in $10 million in property upgrades and access to Marriott’s branding power while the Westin is an upscale business class hotel. The Wyndham rebranding is expected to take place within the first part of next year. Construction of the Westin build-out is expected to begin shortly, with the first guests expected to begin checking into the property in 2011. [Note: To read the full article, visit Two major downtown Phoenix developments get go-ahead from city council.]
In this video produced by the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau, view snippets of downtown Phoenix museums, Convention Center, light rail system, hotels, monthly events like First Fridays, restaurants, theatres, shopping, Chase Field, and U.S. Airways Arena.
[Source: Jahna Berry, Arizona Republic] — The Phoenix Convention Center will host many blockbuster events this year, but the recession may hurt its ability to attract events in 2010 and beyond. Future convention bookings aren’t rolling in as fast as they did last year, and it appears that meeting planners are booking fewer events than expected. For that reason, the city plans as soon as next month to offer select clients a discount of as much as 25 percent on rental fees. The incentive comes just five months after the publicly funded $600 million expansion tripled the size of the buildings on the 26-acre convention-center campus.
Conventions are crucial because they bring in thousands of tourists who sleep in Valley hotel rooms, fill nearby restaurants and shop in local boutiques. Also, those visitors make side trips to other Valley cities and destinations around the state. “We are all worried because we have a global recession that we are involved in and that impacts everything, including the convention business,” said John Chan, director of the Phoenix Convention Center. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Adam Kress, Phoenix Business Journal] — The Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau has issued a pocket-size guide to help visitors and locals alike find their way around the Valley. “Phx in Your Pocket” is a foldout guide created by the CVB featuring maps of the city’s streets and the new light-rail system. The free guide also includes a hiking trail chart and a list of 25 things to see and do in metro Phoenix. When folded, the guide is slightly larger than a credit card. It is available free at the Downtown Phoenix Visitor Information Center at 125 N. Second St. The light-rail map and trail guide also can be downloaded here.
[Source: Dawn Gilbertson, Arizona Republic] — Airline flight cuts and higher airfares this fall will bring fewer visitors to Arizona, delivering a punishing one-two punch to the state’s limping economy. In Phoenix, more than 1 of 10 flights are gone from a year ago. Nearly 70 daily departures have disappeared from Sky Harbor International Airport’s schedule, the equivalent of losing service from almost every major airline except US Airways and Southwest.
Fewer seats for sale means airlines can charge more. Tickets for Phoenix flights departing in October are up an average 28 percent from a year ago, according to Farecast.live.com. Flights to Boston and Chicago are each up 50 percent. In a tourism hotbed where the majority of visitors arrive by plane, fewer flights and higher fares mean fewer customers for hotels, restaurants, spas, and golf courses. At risk: A substantial slice of $19 billion in annual visitor spending in Arizona. This comes after months of reduced numbers in hotel occupancy and airport traffic as people struggle with a plunging stock market, the housing meltdown and other economic woes. “We know we’re in for a period of some rough times,” said Steve Moore, chief executive officer of the Greater Phoenix Convention and Visitors Bureau. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]
[Source: Associated Press] — Phoenix officials feel next year’s NBA All Star game will help highlight the downtown area while bringing some needed cash. The hope is the game showcases the neighborhood’s resurgence, helps drum up interest in future city investment and exposes locals to what downtown offers, organizers say. City boosters plan to make downtown the heart of the All-Star Week celebration, which culminates with the Feb. 15 game.
Activities tied to the NBA All-Star Game will take place almost exclusively in downtown Phoenix. The teams will sleep at the new 1,000-room Sheraton. A basketball theme park, called Jam Session, will take over the convention center’s new North Building for five days. In addition to the Sheraton and the convention-center expansion, the light-rail line will be rolling, something city officials are excited about. “I think that it’s the unveiling of the new downtown Phoenix, its premiere,” Mayor Phil Gordon said. “The Super Bowl — a phenomenal opportunity for the Valley and for Phoenix, and we benefited immensely — but it was a wide-angle view.”
Phoenix estimates that based on previous All-Star Games, the event could attract $40 million in direct spending and up to an $80 million boost to the region. Downtown Phoenix has changed dramatically over the past five years, but many metro Phoenix residents have stayed away because of road construction headaches and other hassles. “One of the best things you can do to get your downtown vibrant is to get your locals talking about it,” said Steve Moore, president and chief executive of the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau. Phoenix last hosted the NBA All-Star Game in 1995.
Kathy Adams and Lori Feinman of the National Trust for Historic Preservation flew into town last week to view Phoenix’s convention facilities; tour selected historic sites and neighborhoods in Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Tempe; and visit with area preservation advocates to determine Phoenix’s ability to host the 2012 National Preservation Conference. Meeting them at Sky Harbor was Sally Forrest, National Accounts Director for the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The three lunched at the Hotel Valley Ho, one of the National Trust’s Historic Hotels of America, and then drove to downtown Phoenix to tour the Phoenix Convention Center, the Hyatt Regency and Wyndham hotels (two of the host hotels), and Orpheum Theatre. Barbara Stocklin, City of Phoenix Historic Preservation Officer, and Jim McPherson, Arizona Advisor to the National Trust, joined them for dinner at the Rose & Crown Pub in Heritage Square Park (a large outdoor venue that could serve as the opening reception for the 2,500-plus attendees of the 2012 conference).
On Tuesday, Adams and Feinman started off the day by visiting the historic San Carlos Hotel and breakfast at Palette in the Roosevelt Historic District. Then it was a “timed-to-the minute” whirlwind van tour of First Presbyterian Church, Security Building (and ASU’s PURL overlooking the city), Monroe School (Children’s Museum of Phoenix), Phoenix Union High School Buildings (University of Arizona College of Medicine), Steele Indian School Park, Heard Museum, and several midtown residential historic districts.
State Historic Preservation Officer Jim Garrison and Modern Phoenix Founder Alison King joined the group for lunch and tour of the Arizona Biltmore Resort and Spa. Then it was off to drive by the Wrigley Mansion, and visit the Desert Botanical Garden, Gammage Auditorium, Pueblo Grande National Historic Landmark, and St. Mary’s Basilica. Special guests “popped in” throughout the day to say hello, provide their perspective on preservation, and tout Phoenix as a conference site: Attorney General Terry Goddard (Palette), State Senator Debbie McCune Davis (UA College of Medicine), City of Phoenix Council Member Greg Stanton (Children’s Museum), attorney Grady Gammage (Gammage Auditorium), former Phoenix mayor John Driggs, and Arizona 2012 Centennial director Karen Churchard.
Topping off the visit was a reception at the Ellis Shackelford House in downtown Phoenix. Over 60 preservation advocates from all over the Valley (and Sierra Vista!), city officials, and downtown business group leaders attended. A balloon arch, special signage, decorations, and flowers in the colors of Arizona’s state flag welcomed our guests from the National Trust. City of Phoenix Council Member Michael Nowakowski, Garrison, Stocklin, Feinman, and McPherson said a few words, and the rest of the evening was spent enjoying each other’s company and dining on wonderful hors d’oeuvres from Catered by St. Joseph’s. Gift bags courtesy of the State Historic Preservation Office and City of Phoenix were presented to Adams and Feinman, and each attendee received a small gift as well.
[Source: Lynn Ducey, Phoenix Busniess Journal] — The new Visitor Information Center in downtown Phoenix [made] its formal debut Monday with a public open house. The facility is at 125 N. Second St., inside the Phoenix Convention Center. The joint effort between the Arizona Office of Tourism and the Greater Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau is intended to help downtown visitors get their bearings and learn more about what Phoenix, the Valley, and the state have to offer. The center is equipped with nine 50-inch plasma screens programmed to highlight Arizona’s landscapes and tourism offerings. A 43-inch interactive state map helps visitors access location-specific information via a touch screen. They also can research and build travel itineraries at Internet stations. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.