On what is now a gravel lot on Mill Avenue, the dilapidated but beloved Long Wong’s bar helped elevate local bands like the Gin Blossoms to national acts. Now, a developer wants to boost the image of the former bar site by building an 18-story hotel and two 25-story condo towers.
Paragon, a Las Vegas-based developer, unveiled plans this week for a project that would become the fifth in downtown Tempe with buildings of 18 or more stories.
The hotel would feature a spa and fit- ness center on its second floor, allowing those in the facility to overlook Mill Avenue — and letting people on the street see people working out.
The fitness center would be open to guests, condo owners and the public. That component would be combined with housing, stores and restaurants that would line the street level and create a mix of uses that are rarely found in a single development, project architect Mike Rumpeltin said.
“There are very few projects like this in the country,” said Rumpeltin, of RSP Architects, Ltd.
Paragon hopes the city will approve the project this year. If that happens, the company plans to start construction in July 2008 and open the project two years later.
The $225 million development would run along Seventh Street from Mill to Myrtle avenues, where it would back up to an equally tall tower at the University Square project that includes a hotel, offices and condos.
The project has been a decade in the making.
Las Vegas real estate investor Mario Sanchez bought the Long Wong’s site on Mill about 10 years ago, said John Cahill, Paragon’s vice president. Sanchez bought another parcel at Seventh and Myrtle several years later and then spent several years buying several small lots in between what he already owned.
The developer bulldozed the building that housed Long Wong’s and other small businesses more than a year ago. The vacant property has bothered many merchants and city officials.
Pam Goronkin, executive director of the Downtown Tempe Community, said merchants were happy to see that something was being done with the property.
But she said it’s regrettable that the developer couldn’t also buy the aging Jack in the Box on Mill. It’s the only business left downtown with its own parking lot and driveway, a suburban-type development that downtown planners would prefer to see replaced with an urban building. But the owner wasn’t willing to sell.
“We’ve lived with it a long time,” Goronkin said. “Although I would rather see it incorporated in the project, those people have a right to do what they want with their own property.”
Several things haven’t been determined yet, including the name, condo prices and the hotel brand.
The project includes a redbrick facade on Mill and on Seventh to match surrounding buildings, but the towers will sport steel and glass. The buildings fit within the city’s height guidelines except for the hotel, which would jut above the 150-foot height guideline for that part of the property.
The project’s overall height concerns Councilman Ben Arredondo. He’s objected to heights of some other projects and insisted that the neighboring University Square should not go an inch over the 300-foot limit.
Arredondo said he’s not thrilled to hear part of this project goes over the guideline.
“I thought we agreed to a height limit and not a fudge factor,” he said.
Arredondo said he checks any tall buildings to see if they are too close to neighborhoods or if block the view of Hayden Butte. Those seem to be the biggest concerns of Tempeans, he said.
“They aren’t too concerned when they’re right downtown on Mill,” Arredondo said. “But when it goes over by College Avenue or further to the railroad tracks on the west side, they start to get concerned.”
The project’s condo towers would tie with University Square for the second tallest buildings in Tempe at about 300 feet. The tallest buildings will be three 30-story, 343-foot condo towers at Centerpoint Condominiums.
A hotel and condo project at Mill Avenue and Seventh Street includes:
• 240 hotel rooms
• 370 residential units
• 1.1 million square feet
• Conference center, spa and fitness center
• 34,000 square feet for restaurants and shops
Proposed 18-story hotel and two 25-story condo towers. Construction planned to start mid-2008 if approved.
One 22-story and one 30-story tower under construction. Two more 30-story towers planned.
One 18-story condo tower. Construction in early stages now.
Two condo towers, 20 stories and 14 or 15 stories, which has not been determined. Construction begins May.
Three towers ––office, condo and hotel. One tower will reach 300 feet ––more than 20 stories, but the exact number of floors isn’t determined. Construction begins this year.
SOURCE: Tempe; Paragon