Montelucia Strikes Gold in Paradise Valley
On the 29-acre former site of La Posada Resort, nestled between Phoenix and Scottsdale, crews on the $280 million Montelucia are nearing completion of the project’s resort, spa and luxury homes.
Mixed-use developments, posh resorts and lavish custom homes are nothing new to metropolitan Phoenix, and now a $280 million hospitality project in exclusive Paradise Valley is combining the best of these worlds.
Montelucia, which is located on 29 acres beneath Camelback Mountain’s north face, is two-thirds full-service resort and one-third luxury homes. The development has been rising since January 2006 on the former site of La Posada Resort, which was purchased by Crown Realty & Development Corp. of Irvine, Calif., for $31 million in 2004.
As it nears its completion in August, the project has shed its midcentury past for the look and feel of a pastoral village plucked from southern Spain. With an open layout emphasizing landscape, pedestrian thoroughfares and sheltered pockets of varied activity space, it packs in 293 guest rooms, two 3,000-sq-ft supersuites, restaurants, boutiques, 31,000 sq ft of top-end spa and meeting space, a subterranean parking structure, wedding chapel and 34 single-family homes.
Crown Realty & Development Corp. has a billion-dollar portfolio primarily of Southern California commercial redevelopment projects. Going from commercial to high-profile resort in one of Arizona’s most elite communities was driven by market, says Rick Carpinelli, Crown’s senior vice president of development. “(The owners) had been looking for different hospitality opportunities,” he says. “When they saw the property, they saw this had a real opportunity to be a magnificent resort.”
To realize the vision, Crown assembled a planning and construction team of five design firms, three general contractors and roughly 200 specialty subcontractors, artisans and assorted visionaries.
From the start, the concept included full-ownership residences to fund the resort’s upscale accoutrements, Carpinelli says. California firm Scheurer Architects designed the two-story, single-family Villas, with three floor plans ranging from 3,800 to 4,700 sq ft priced at $2 million to $4 million. Opulently appointed by Scottsdale design firm Studio B, they boast gourmet kitchens, wine cellars, private courtyards and sprawling master suites.
Details include hand-hewn wood beams, crystal chandeliers, custom fountains and mature landscaping. Antiquities such as doors, fixtures, textiles and Moorish ceramics collected in Europe will be used in both Villas and the resort, as will original artwork, custom ironwork, hand-carved wood and thousands of tiles hand-painted by one Phoenix-area artisan.
The Villas were sold at three to four a week and were nearly sold out by March, when the first owners moved in.
The residences are on resort land, but they still needed a town of Paradise Valley special-use permit, and their density-34 homes on 10 acres in a neighborhood of two-acre sites-raised community hackles. To meet the approval of neighbors and town officials, design and construction were continuously revamped.
Details were added to villas fronting Lincoln Avenue and some structures retained to preserve views and neighborhood character. Crown held special site tours for neighbors, and Carpinelli says the meetings helped form positive opinions.
Since February, Scottsdale-based Rowland Luxury Homes, specializing in custom homes, rough and finish carpentry and specialty installations, has served as general contractor, replacing Arkansas-based Vratsinas Construction Co. and collaborating closely with sister commercial firm Rowland Cos. “(Vratsinas) was supposed to remain on board but we elected to make a change at a really critical point in the project, the high-end finish work,” Carpinelli says.
While declining to give specific reasons why Vratsinas is no longer on the project, Carpinelli says “At this point in time, it comes down to a lot of coordination, and Rowland is doing a terrific job.”
Rowland was already doing framing and finishing and had a strong relationship with the owners. “This truly has been an awesome cultivation between Rowland Cos. and Rowland Luxury Homes,” says Guy Loisi, Rowland Luxury Homes’ managing partner. “It has so much high-end finishing and residential flair, and so much commercial.”
Management required coordinating hundreds of subs on a fast-paced schedule. The resort side moved forward amid community tours, design revisions and day-to-day operations of InterContinental Hotels Group, which will manage the resort and was already booking rooms. Decisions were a group effort among owners, reps, designers and at least 30 staff members.
“It’s quite a bit to get your arms around,” Loisi says.
The 19-acre resort section encompasses a two-story event and spa lodge, guest rooms and casitas, presidential suites and a multifunction arrival plaza.
Guest rooms are located in 16 buildings including remodeled single-story La Posada structures. Other original buildings were removed to make way for the resort’s open, Old World transformation. Demolition included removing asbestos from guest rooms, salvaging thousands of mature plants and tearing out more than three acres of asphalt.
Designers had to select structures for remodel and demolition, designate real and faux finishes, combine a spa with event space, integrate with Villas designed by another firm and win community approval for every detail.
Scottsdale architects Allen + Philp rose to the challenge. Specializing in hospitality, the firm’s local portfolio includes the Fairmont Princess and the Sanctuary on Camelback. For inspiration, firm principal and architect Mark Philp turned to the Spanish cotillo, or country house, the predecessor of the Spanish Colonial hacienda.
The Old World, multistructure concept unites varied resort components within the story of Montelucia, an Andalusian estate that evolved over centuries.
In Paradise Valley, Montelucia’s “grand house” is at the property’s Lincoln Avenue entry. Greeting guests with arcades and a giant Moorish awning, the arrival plaza is designed for high-impact first impressions. Individual structures surrounding its courtyard include a reception building, cafeute;, boutiques, bell tower and wedding chapel.
A 9,500-sq-ft, full-service restaurant embraces one end. Its initial design by California architectural firm Backen Gillam takes after Michelangelo’s Villa San Michele monastery in Florence. Allen + Philp are completing the project, which features open-fire kitchens, vaulted arched ceilings and an outdoor patio with hydroradiant floor heating.
The outdoor dining room faces the resort’s heart, where a fountain-bisected pedestrian arterial called the Alhambra Walkway connects resort with Villas to the west. To the east is the 31,000-sq-ft lodge, which houses meeting space, bistro, shops and the 2,400-sq-ft spa, a top-end experiential destination created by renowned Sedona spa designer Sylvia Sepielli.
Accessed through an intimate “Garden of Life” landscaped courtyard, the entry’s two-story rotunda is dominated by 30-ft windows and a wide, curving stair. Upstairs, a labyrinthian floor plan based on the program’s sequential steps begins with a “decompression zone,” plus 19 treatment rooms, fitness center, lounge and cabana suites overlooking a second-story pool. Nautilus-shaped rooms, curving halls and rotundas create the soft, spa other-world, while Moorish arches and fountains evoke the Montelucia story.
Below, the facility houses a full-service salon and meeting space including two ballrooms and 16 breakouts. Other event space, including 70,000 sq ft outdoors, dots the grounds. To realize the lush landscape design of Scottsdale landscape architect Greey Pickett, Montelucia restricts cars to a three-story, partially subterranean parking garage. Building the 30-ft-deep cavern beside the 36-ft-high lodge required meticulous engineering and shoring up. Contractors also had to deal with a flood-prone wash through the property’s southern end. One of the project’s first jobs was to harness it with four, 4- by 5-ft barrel culverts.
Developer: Crown Realty & Development Corp.
Architects: Allen & Philp Architects; Backen Gillam Architects; Scheurer Architects
General Contractor: Rowland Luxury Homes with Rowland Cos.
Interior Design: 4240 Architecture; Studio B
Subcontractors: Bergelectric; Steadfast Excavating; Tempe Mechanical; Sunstate Mechanical; State Electrical; Piperite Plumbing; Cactus Stone & Tile; Wang Electric
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