Hotel Heights

Downtown Tucson’s new high-rise hotel is in the home stretch

Tucson gets ready to adopt a different kind of Hispanic influence as a team of local developers, architects and construction companies near completion on downtown's first new hotel since 1972.

A new AC Marriot, of European-style business model, is slated for completion in early summer of next year, announced Scott Stiteler, downtown developer, at the Nov. 5 topping-off celebration open to members of the community.

The eight-story hotel will feature 130 rooms and six suites on its top three floors, 2-3 businesses on the ground floor and a rooftop pool with a view to the north of downtown. The building's height provides a unique panoramic view of Tucson from the center of downtown.

Rooms are small yet stylish and feature "select-service" bare necessities such as televisions, fridges and wifi, cutting rates by omitting amenities like room service. Average room rates will run about $145 per night and adjust seasonally, Stiteler said.

The rooftop pool will have a bar and is available not only to guests, but locals as well, though the specifics have yet to be worked out.

"It's a charming space," Stiteler said. "This will be a good place to hang out."

The second through fifth floors will contain more than 200 parking spots for hotel guests and some 50 employees.

Patrons will enter through a driving port with valet on North Fifth Avenue where they'll be met with a tapas bar and a few retail shops in the lobby. Stiteler said one local business has already claimed a portion of the 5,000 square-feet of retail space on the ground floor and there's room for one or two more.

Stiteler's envisions the adoption of "European sensibility" in making small sites effective by "pushing" guests out into the businesses around the hotel. This is part of Stiteler's grander vision for downtown Tucson, which he has been working on since acquiring properties along Congress Street.

"A lot of people ask me why I got involved in the projects here in downtown Tucson," Stiteler said after considering the question the night before. "Just the way blocks, the buildings, the charm, the soul that everyone feels in this community—I remembered it."

The AC brand comes from Antonio Catalon who has opened similar hotels across Europe. Tucson's AC Marriot was the fifth franchise deal struck in the country with plans for more than 80 in North America.

Mayor Jonathan Rothschild and Ward 6 Councilmember Steve Kozachik spoke at the topping-off celebration on the rooftop of Playground Bar and Lounge.

"I really just want to thank our community for coming together and beginning to believe in ourselves as a community because when we do that, we now see there's no rooftop—even eight stories—that we can't go beyond," Rothschild said.

As the downtown atmosphere continues to evolve, Stiteler and Rothschild hope surrounding locals will visit the new scene, holding up prices at the Hub Restaurant and the hotel's relatively low rates as examples of local consideration.

"You don't want to lose what makes Tucson wonderful," Rothschild said. "We watch that very carefully, trying to keep the cultural, the historical, a little bit of the funky, but at the same time we know now as a community that we got it going."

Rothschild hopes the hotel's location will help bolster business at surrounding establishments with the patronage of guests, some of which will be travelling employees of some of Tucson's larger or emerging companies like Raytheon and Caterpillar.

"This is special because it creates an opportunity for all the other businesses to become stronger," Rothschild said.

The recent closings of Proper and Pizzeria Bianco downtown, both properties owned by Stiteler (not the businesses), doesn't cause him concern for his future plans. He said the restaurant business is volatile and it's an expected part of downtown Tucson's formation.

The hotel's small footprint has provided a challenge for the general contractor, Lloyd Construction. Nestled between the Hub and Playground to the north and Broadway Boulevard to the south, the construction site doesn't leave much room for mobility.

"Anybody who's involved in the construction industry knows how challenging this site is," said Steve Kozachik. "Just to make it even more challenging we put a street car in and surrounded the site with electric wires."

However, the team at Lloyd sees it less as a challenge and more as expected complications on a job like this, shrugging off perceived difficulties as business as usual.

The building is constructed entirely of steel and concrete, a quality Stiteler hopes is a testament to the hotel's longevity.

Swaim Associates and FORS Architecture partnered to help design the hotel, combining Swaim's resources and technical expertise with FORS's aesthetic vision to meld with their other downtown projects such as the Hub Restaurant and Playground.

"There were a lot of people that laid thefoundation to get us where we are today," Rothschild said, mentioning Stiteler specifically. "He took some runs and failed, but now he's a big believer and we've got a big success."

Early in the hotel's conception Stiteler had trouble finding a bank loan for the first hotel in downtown Tucson in more than 40 years. Stiteler said he met with about 10 banks before taking executives from Grandpoint Bank, who owns Bank of Tucson out of L.A., on a tour of downtown Tucson.

A friend at the Bank of Tucson told him they wouldn't be interested in the loan, but after 40 minutes, standing on the rooftop of Playground, one of the executives asked about the hotel loan and Stiteler struck a deal that was finalized two and a half years later.

"My daughter called me three days ago ... and she said, 'Dad, you must be so proud,'" Stiteler said. "And I usually say, 'There's still a lot of work to do' ... and that's the first time I said, 'I am.'"

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