[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.]
[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.