Preliminary plans filed for Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton project

An rendering of the views to be offered at the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton. (Submitted graphic)

A rendering of the views to be offered at the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton. (Submitted graphic)

Developers of the proposed Ritz-Carlton resort have submitted revised plans for the Paradise Valley property, giving town officials their first chance to scrutinize what the finished project might ultimately look like.

Five Star Development Inc. filed a preliminary application for a special-use permit Thursday, March 12. The permit, if approved, would allow construction of a Ritz-Carlton resort, along with a residential community, on 82 acres of a 105-acre swath of land at about Scottsdale and Lincoln roads.

The new application comes nearly seven years after the town approved plans for redevelopment — plans that were never carried out Five Star and municipal officials agree was due to economics of the Great Recession.

 A rendering of the view from Lincoln Road of the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton. (Submitted graphic)

A rendering of the view from Lincoln Road of the Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton. (Submitted graphic)

Paradise Valley Town Council in April 2008 unanimously approved a special-use permit application for the construction of the Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley Resort, Independent archives state.

Preceding council approval, a resident group calling itself “Preserve our Paradise” was created in opposition of the approved SUP.

The matter was put to a public vote in November 2008 and Paradise Valley residents overwhelmingly approved the resort project by a more than 2-to-1 margin, archives state.

The project approved on the 105-acre site was for a 225-room resort, spa, restaurants and meeting space as well as 100 resort patio homes, 46 luxury detached residential homes and 15 one-acre estate lots on adjacent vacant land, archives state.

The March 12 pre-application proposal includes some changes to the original resort pitch, including:

  • 82 of the 105 acres to be developed are now planned;
  • 157 single-family homes compared to 161 in 2008;
  • 280 total hotel rooms compared to 225 in 2008;
  • The project will encompass 1.08 million square feet compared to 1.1 million in 2008.

Five Star officials contend market changes have spurred the need for a new vision of a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton product.

“Some may ask, why do we need to change the plan at all? Why can’t we build what was approved in 2008?” said Five Star Development owner Jerry Ayoub in a March 18 guest commentary provide to Independent Newsmedia.

“First, while the economy and the real estate market have improved since the downturn, the market has not fully recovered, with property values still lagging 20 to 25 percent below 2008 levels. This means the economics of the 2008 proposal are no longer viable.”

Mr. Ayoub goes on to explain new development in adjacent Scottsdale is also pushing for a “new” Ritz-Carlton vision.

“Second, new developments in Scottsdale directly adjacent to the Ritz-Carlton property have reached 48 feet in height. We can’t put single-family homes or resort amenities such as those proposed in 2008 next to such tall buildings — it just doesn’t work,” he explained.

Market demands are bringing new housing options around the Valley of the Sun and the Town of Paradise Valley is no exception, Mr. Ayoub says.

“Third, the real estate market has simply changed since 2008,” he said. “More residents — both in Paradise Valley and beyond — are seeking the kind of resort-style residential living found at other properties in Paradise Valley.

Height on the horizon

While the preliminary application does not include any site plans, it does give an indication of new heights to be pursued.

“The tallest proposed structure in the project is the Ritz-Carlton’s lobby, which is planned to be a height of 58 feet above land grade, (but) the structure itself would not be that tall because it would be built on an artificial slope,” said Tom Evans, a spokesman for Five Star Development, in a March 16 written response to e-mailed questions.

“We wanted to create a lobby for the Ritz-Carlton that would offer exceptional views of the nearby mountains for guests, just as other resorts in the community enjoy. And, we will create an architectural design that will make residents proud by providing an iconic new presence on the property. The view of the new Ritz-Carlton would replace the views of nearby development in Scottsdale while not being so high as to block mountain views.”

The new heights on the eastern portion of the project to be pursued are a direct result of nearby, adjacent development in Scottsdale.

“The heights along the eastern boundary of the project are proposed to be a maximum of 48 feet, to match and create a buffer against the heights of existing and planned development directly adjacent to the property in Scottsdale,” he said.

“The new development at the Borgata is not so much a concern as the 48-foot-tall apartment buildings and three-story office buildings that currently sit directly east of the project boundary. Unlike those projects, these proposed residences would be designed to match the design of the resort and to be sensitive to the character of Paradise Valley.”

The reality of market conditions

Paradise Valley Vice Mayor Paul Dembow was happy to see the idea of a Paradise Valley Ritz-Carlton product come back to life.

“I’m very excited to see the Five Star application with a Ritz-Carlton resort located in Paradise Valley,” he said in a March 17 written response to e-mailed questions. “The upscale hotel, will help drive values for the entire site, and at the end of the day, Paradise Valley is a resort community.”

The perception of density is something Vice Mayor Dembow does not have yet due to the nature of a preliminary application, he says.

“Five Star’s existing SUP certainly has more density than one-house-per-acre, similar to products at the Camelback Inn, Mountain Shadows and Montelucia,” he said. “It clearly was designed to fit in our community. Since the applicant has not presented a full site plan yet, I can’t comment on the balance of the project until I see it. The planning commission will be vetting the plan.”

Paradise Valley Councilman David Sherf said he had mixed emotions upon first read of the preliminary application.

“I was encouraged that Five Star finally submitted the preliminary application, which enables us to begin conversations in earnest, but was discouraged that a full site plan covering all 105 acres was not submitted,” he said in a March 17 written response to e-mailed questions.

“While the resort aspect of the plan continues to seemingly drive the project, it only encompasses about 30 acres of the total 105 acres in the project.”

Councilman Sherf says he believes resort and hotel market conditions are roughly in the same neighborhood today as they were in 2008.

“The Phoenix-area resort industry had its best years during 2007 and 2008 and rebounded in 2014 to be nearly as strong as during 2007 and 2008, so I think the resort industry today is  about where it was in 2008,” he said.

“Regarding housing, the biggest change from 2008 is that in Paradise Valley some residents seemingly prefer smaller homes on smaller lots as they downsize. Yet the allure of most people moving into Paradise Valley, as well as the majority of existing residents, are the one-acre lots that closely  define the character of our town and were endorsed in our General Plan.

“Thus, I do not think the economy has had that much change on housing in Paradise Valley, rather it is market preferences driving some buyers to seek smaller homes on less than one acre lots.”

The absence of 26 acres apart of the preliminary application was something that stuck out to Councilman Sherf, he says.

“The biggest takeaway was that 26 acres in the SUP was not specifically designated,” he said. “A site plan must be submitted for this acreage for the SUP to be fully addressed.”

The narrative of the preliminary application states the project team simply doesn’t know yet what kind of development will  compliment the project in the future.

Northeast Valley Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at tthornton@newszap.com

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