Marana Ritz plans filed; deal not done - Tucson Local Media: Import

Marana Ritz plans filed; deal not done

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Posted: Wednesday, March 15, 2006 12:00 am

March 15, 2006 - Only time will tell; the developer won't.

Cottonwood Properties President David Mehl and Vice President Bill Hallinan refuse to say when or even if the development company will finalize a deal to build a Ritz-Carton hotel in Marana.

Cottonwood Properties, though, has filed development plans for the "Ritz-Carlton Resort at Dove Mountain" with the town of Marana planning department.

The plans call for a 250-room hotel on 99 acres just north of the current Dove Mountain residential community, located at the base of the Tortolita Mountains.

A four-story main building would offer 199 rooms, while "casitas" scattered across the property would provide 51 more guest rooms. The resort would include a 16,700-square-foot spa, as well as a pool bar and grill, according to development plans.

Town of Marana Planner Kim Beer has reviewed the plans and requested some minor changes from Cottonwood Properties, which has developed more than $400 million in apartment communities, retail centers and office complexes in and around Tucson.

Hallinan drew clear and precise plans, Beer said.

"It's been smooth sailing," Beer explained. "There are no major changes that would drop a bomb on this project."

The town awaits the developer's second submittal of development plans.

Hallinan would not say when he would resubmit the plans to town planners.

"It's not a done deal yet," he said of a possible agreement with The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co., based in Chevy Chase, Md.

"When we're there, we're there, but we aren't yet."

The developers, meanwhile, will continue to work on the hotel proposal and could submit a second round of plans before a deal is made.

"We will continue with the planning process as we continue our discussions with (the Ritz)," Mehl said. "I look forward to being able to say more, but we're not ready to make any kind of announcement."

The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Co. has 59 hotels world-wide and 35 in the U.S., with locations in Dallas and Charlotte, N.C. expected to open in the next two years.

China will have seven of the upscale hotels by 2009.

A lot seems to have fallen into place for Cottonwood Properties, leading up to a deal for the Ritz.

Particular incentive arrived last month, when the PGA Tour announced it would hold the Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain's Gallery Golf Club from 2007 to 2010.

The golf tournament alone lends itself to a resort hotel at Dove Mountain, Marana Town Manager Mike Reuwsaat said.

"And perhaps other hotels (and) motels off I-10."

Town officials estimate the Ritz-Carlton would bring 200 jobs and $1 million annually in tax revenue to Marana.

"We hope it would become a reality," Reuwsaat said. "We're waiting to see if they are able to finish the deal, but I'm assuming they're far along because we're receiving their site plans."

Oro Valley officials had long planned to have a 320-room Ritz-Carlton built at Stone Canyon in the Rancho Vistoso development, about five miles east of Dove Mountain. But Vistoso Partners - the developer of Stone Canyon - never sealed the deal with the hotel company, which had purchased a 12-acre site in the development.

Vistoso Partners a couple of months ago bought the land back, General Manager Dick Maes said.

Oro Valley officials and developers hope to bring another resort hotel to Stone Canyon.

At one time, developers sketched plans for a 500-room Hyatt hotel in Dove Mountain. The Sept. 11 attacks sent the travel industry into a downward spiral, killing that idea.

Five years later, Cottonwood Properties not only plans to build a Ritz-Carlton but also a residential and commercial development, just west of the proposed hotel.

The developer has filed a preliminary plat at town hall for the 747-acre Dove Mountain Resort, which includes plans for 154 "Ritz-branded" homes.

Those who purchase the homes would have access to the nearby hotel amenities and receive other perks, such as concierge and cleaning services, Hallinan explained.

Dove Mountain Resort plans also call for an 18-hole golf course. The developer proposes more houses, commercial development and another golf course in the future.

Residents and visitors would enter the resort area through a single gate to get to both the hotel and the residential resort. That gate would be located at the intersection of Dove Mountain Boulevard and the yet-to-be-built Secret Springs Drive. The latter would lead to parking for people wishing to hike trails into the Tortolita Mountains.

The Ritz-Carlton plans would require a significant water main extension from Tucson Water and a 200,000-gallon storage tank. Cottonwood Properties would construct its own sewer system, which Pima County would oversee.

In preparation for this project, archaeologists wrapped up digs at 59 excavation sites on the property. They found almost 4,000 ceramics dating back 1,500 years.

Archaeologists also recovered more than 2,000 animal bones and human remains from six burial grounds. Scientists gave their findings to the Tohono O'odham Nation, according to correspondence included in the planning files.

The developers agreed to preserve a petroglyph site on the proposed development.

While town officials think the Ritz and its related development would become a regional draw, the developer keeps a tight lid on negotiations.

"We are working closely with (the Ritz), but we're not prepared to discuss details," Mehl said.

"The Dove Mountain community has become a fabulous place to live," he continued. "With or without a new resort hotel, that would be the case."

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