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The Sonoran summer is hot, but the living is easy. A weekend visitor to Phoenix and Scottsdale (or “Snotsdale” as the locals call it), would never know that America is experiencing one of the worst economic downturns since The Great Depression. Enjoying a cocktail on the patio at the infamous Phoenician after a leisurely facial at the spa then a quick dip in the pool, I need only raise my head ever-so-slightly to see Camelback Mountain in all its majesty. At sunset, when I retire with friends to the private wine cellar-turned-VIP dining room for a 5-course meal with local wines to match, the last thing on my mind is dearth. (The private dining room is called “The Praying Monk,” a name derived from the rock formation on Camelback that appears in profile to be a praying monk). Following is an up-to-the-minute checklist of renovations and improvements at a handful of Phoenix and Scottsdale’s most sought-after hotels and resorts.
The Phoenician: The 647-room Phoenician in Scottsdale completed the new 15,000-square-foot Camelback Ballroom this year. The Phoenician also recently completed a $5.5 million enhancement of its 60 guest rooms, lobby, and meeting space in the Canyon Suites building, located about a 5-minute walk from the resort. Relish Burger Bistro has replaced Windows on the Green, and the Oasis Golf Course and the Centre for Well-Being have also been completely redesigned and updated (be sure to experience the new zero-gravity chairs in the Meditation Atrium.) The Phoenician has also added two new restaurants, J&G Steakhouse and Il Terrazzo, and introduced a Family Activity Center.
The Royal Palms Resort and Spa: In 2012, The Royal Palms Resort and Spa will be updating the Valencia Casita collection (28 rooms and two suites) with a complete bathroom and bedroom renovation for a total of $1.1 million. The resort currently has one model room with the completion of all rooms slated for late 2012.
The Saguaro: The 200-room Mondrian Scottsdale has been renamed The Saguaro and was recently purchased by Joie de Vivre (it will be the first JDV property in Arizona.) It’s slated to open November 1 in its central location in Old Town Scottsdale after a full renovation.
Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa: The 492-room Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch completed a $50 million renovation in 2008 that includes a new Executive Boardroom and a makeover for the Vaquero Ballroom. More recently, they’ve added a sushi restaurant called Noh and a weekday evening “Wine Me Dine Me” wine and food pairing event where young chefs prepare each of five courses before your eyes in a visible kitchen, discussing ingredients and preparation as they hone their craft. A new nightly live music event at Center Stage Bar draws a lively crowd.
Camelback Inn: The 453-room Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa, located in Paradise Valley, completed a full $45 million renovation last fall, including the launch of BLT Steakhouse. The hotel’s 45,000 square feet of meeting space now includes a new 20,000-square-foot grand ballroom.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale: The 210-room Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North completed a $20 million makeover in 2008 that refurbished all guest rooms and public spaces. The resort spent $1 million on the pool just last year, including an elevated chaise lounge area with transparent mesh exposing dramatic, sweeping views of the Valley of the Sun below. Also included in the renovations are two VIP “super” cabanas, outfitted with flat screen televisions, mini fridges, iPod docking stations, ceiling fans, and dedicated service from a designated staff member when occupied. The resort is also planning a $2 million renovation of its restaurant, Reno, in the summer of 2012.
The Boulders: A Waldorf Astoria Resort, The Boulders features 160 guest casitas (all of which recently experienced a multimillion dollar renovation and include wood-burning fireplaces in each room) and 61 one-, two- and three-bedroom villas, seven restaurants and a lounge, two championship Jay Morrish-designed golf courses, eight tennis courts including three classic clay surfaces, five premier cushion courts and a full-service Golden Door Spa. Latilla, The Boulders AAA Four Diamond Award-winning restaurant with its organic garden outside, recently underwent a redecor, as did Bogey’s (the Boulder’s sports bar), and The Grill at The Boulder’s Club. And on November 1, 2011 The Boulders will introduce two new “short” golf courses, ideal for novice players or professional golfers with executive schedules. The new short courses will offer an alternative to feeling the pressure of playing longer tees and enhancing the overall golf experience.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess: The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has broken ground on a new conference center which will add 52,331 square feet of indoor meeting space anchored by the new 23,000-square-foot Palomino Ballroom. Debuting October 2012, the conference center is part of a five-year, $75 million master renovation plan by the resort’s owner, Strategic Hotels & Resorts, since it acquired the Princess in 2006. The first $55 million of enhancements took place resort-wide in 2006, adding more modern decor to the guest rooms and lobby; new fire and water features throughout the resort, as well as the addition of Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, Stone Rose Lounge by nightlife entrepreneurs Rande and Scott Gerber, and re-opening La Hacienda with celebrity chef Richard Sandoval.
Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa: The guest arrival experience at the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa has recently undergone a complete $7 million redesign to reflect the original architecture and sensations guests at the Wigwam experienced when it first opened in 1929. One of Arizona’s most iconic resorts, the Wigwam spreads across four acres in the West Valley of Greater Phoenix. The largest of the resort’s three pools, the Adobe Pool, has been redesigned and expanded to include separate pool areas – leisure friendly for adults and water fun for kids. The resort’s current small outdoor areas have been replaced with vast, lush open-air entertainment and al fresco dining areas, a new indoor/outdoor bar, and a number of private gardens and event lawns ideal for weddings, ceremonies, social gatherings, concerts, and private dinners. In addition, guest rooms have been updated to reflect a more modern aesthetic. The new signature restaurant, Litchfield's, features farm-to-table fare with menus developed by Todd Henderson, formerly with the Barneys New York signature restaurant, Fred’s. ()
The Arizona Biltmore: The Arizona Biltmore, Frank Lloyd Wright and Albert Chase McArthur’s 1920’s-style “Jewel of the Desert,” marked its 80th anniversary in 2009 with the opening of Ocatilla at Arizona Biltmore, a boutique addition to the hotel, and also with Frank & Albert’s, the hotel’s new restaurant, which features local organic ingredients crafted into Arizona comfort foods and American classics. The three-story Ocatilla at Arizona Biltmore features 120 rooms, including club accommodations with custom furnishings, a private Ocatilla Pool with poolside service, and an Ocatilla Executive Lounge with an array of executive amenities. The 500-square-foot Club and Club Deluxe guest rooms come outfitted with a traditional Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired interior; a media wall with a flat-screen HD TV, iPod dock, high-speed Internet access, and business work area with a desk and fax machine; granite and mosaic-tile bathrooms with Kohler double sinks and special bath amenities by Pascal Morabito; and panoramic views of the mountains, pools, or gardens. Frank & Albert’s Executive Chef Todd Sicolo and Chef de Cuisine Conor Favre use produce and other fare from Arizona’s best farms and growers to produce an inspired menu with items such as fish tacos and pulled pork nachos with Mesa Farms Jack Cheese. Yum.