Travel guides point to Mesa as the budget motel capital of the East Valley, but the higher-quality hotel drought that has plagued the city for about eight years is starting to let up.
There are now about 20 different hotel proposals being discussed for Mesa. Some are in early conceptual phases and plans have not been submitted to the city, while others have received City Council approval, according to city records and the Mesa Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Most of the hotels under consideration are of a higher quality than Mesa is used to, and the bureau’s executive director, Robert Brinton, says he hopes some of the projects can help diversify the market and improve the city’s image.
“We’re looking for qual- ity and variety,” Brinton said. “Things that can help distinguish us.”
The last time Mesa saw a hotel built was in 1999. That year, a Marriott Residence Inn opened near Fiesta Mall as well as a Suites of America on Dobson Road. Since then, not a single hotel has gone up in the city, and low-budget motels have continued to dominate the market, Brinton said.
“We have a lot of economic leakage,” he said. “People are shopping outside of Mesa. They entertain outside of Mesa. Mesa has so many lowend amenities. We have to change the product mix, and that takes time.”
It appears that time has come as the tourism economy improves from its losses after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack and investors are starting to fund hotel projects again.
There are hotel proposals all around the Valley. Specifically in Mesa, there are full, select and limited service hotel proposals on the table, with the majority of those aiming to attract business clientele.
The council has already approved plans for a Hyatt Place at Riverview in west Mesa as well as an unnamed hotel at Signal Butte Road and U.S. 60 in east Mesa. Plans are in the works to raze and convert the Mesa Holiday Inn on East Main near Recker Road into a full-service Holiday Inn.
At least three different Marriott brand hotels are working their way through the city planning process right now, one of which received approval from the Planning and Zoning Board on Thursday.
If the Waveyard adventure park project in west Mesa is approved by voters, it will come with a 400-room resort hotel.
And soon Mesa will see the opening of its first lodging facility with the Comfort Inn on 651 E. Main St. Although this is not an upscale project, the bureau is supportive because the inn will replace the older Copper State Motel.
Many other hotels also have been mentioned in presubmittal applications with the city, although most developers do not list brand names or other details. Brinton said some of the hotel proposals may not pan out, although he’s happy to see that hotels are being discussed.
“Do I really believe all of those will develop? No,” he said, noting that many developers will often include generic plans for a hotel in a project to help get it approved. As such, he takes many of the discussions on hotel development “with a grain of salt.”
Many of Mesa’s neighbors are seeing a similar influx of hotel proposals. Gilbert only used to have one extended stay hotel, but the Town Council recently approved plans for a second one. A higher-end sixstory Hyatt Place Hotel and four-story Hampton Inn also are proposed near Val Vista Drive and Loop 202’s Santan Freeway. Other proposals are for Chandler, Scottsdale, Tempe and Phoenix.
“Typically the Phoenix hotel market has been cyclical,” said Jason Jones, who is the vice president of real estate for Hansji Hotels and just got approval on Thursday from the Mesa Planning and Zoning Board for a Marriott Courtyard Hotel and restaurant at McKellips Road and 48th Street.
“In the late ’90s it was overbuilt and there ... wasn’t enough demand to meet the supply. When the travel industry started to slow down, especially after 9/11, a lot of projects were canceled. There wasn’t much new inventory on the books,” Jones said. “Now, as businesses have come out at the Williams Gateway Airport and there’s new development at Falcon Field, some of those (businesses) have increased demand.”
Mesa’s airports are helping to generate the hotel buzz. Jones said his proposal targets the employees of the Boeing Company’s Apache helicopter plant at Falcon Field as well as defense contractors or other companies that fly into the area to do business with Boeing.
Paul Gilbert, a local attorney with Beaus Gilbert, said he’s representing about six developers, two of whom have projects with hotel components in Mesa. Both are near Williams Gateway, with one at Signal Butte and U.S. 60 and the other on Baseline Road and Loop 202’s Santan Freeway. Two years ago, none of his clients had hotel plans on the table.
While all cities in the Valley experienced a decline in hotel projects until recently, Mesa distinguished itself with a plentiful selection of low budget motels. Today, about 65 percent of the city’s hotels/motels fall into the “budget” category. By contrast, only 8 percent of all hotels in Mesa are full-service and none are considered luxury.
Tribune writer Beth Lucas contributed to this report.