Brief history of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel
Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel has gone through many name changes and renovations all under just a few ownership changes. The Adams Hotel was demolished in 1973 to make room for the new $27 million Adams Hotel. It was developed and constructed on the site of the previous Adams Hotel in a combined venture of PIC Realty and the Vita Cos owned by Phoenix lawyer Albert B. Spector Sr.
It was designed by the firm of Schwenn & Clark and is most noted for its hundreds of eyebrow windows over a line of three-story arches at the base level. Its iconic curved windows block out up to 70% of the heat from the sun.
Ralph Hitz Jr., the former Managing Director of the Hotel Muehlebach in Kansas City, Mo was the first general manager of the new Adams Hotel. Hitz thought things were not what they used to be at the 700-room Muehlbach which was slipping into shoddiness. Back in the 30’s and 40’s, the Muehlebach was the center of action in Kansas City. The last hotel Hitz managed before his retirement in 1994 was the Crowne Plaza in downtown Kansas City Missouri. He died in 1998. Andee Mena was the Adams Hotel opening Chef, he came from Chicago’s Continental Plaza Hotel.
Seven months after the 538-room Adams Hotel opened in 1975, the Vita Cos. filed for protection from creditors in Bankruptcy Court and the hotel was placed in receivership. The court appointed receiver was Ed Caliendo and Daniel J. Palaschak the general manager. The primary creditor of the Adams Hotel was Prudential with a mortgage lien of $15.4 million plus accrued interest. Spector Sr. was in a perilous financial condition at the time and entered into a $1 million transaction with PIC Realty Corp (Prudential). The deal was to provide some immediate cash for the cash flow problems at the new hotel. Prudential claimed the $1 million dollar transaction represented a purchase of Spector Sr.’s equity in the hotel. In August 1976 the court voided the equity transfer between PIC Realty (Prudential) and Spector Sr. but the bankruptcy hearings continued for over 5 years. In 1980 a $33 million dollar offer for the hotel was scuttled due to the bankruptcy. The prospective New York buyers were Jason Jacobs, of Delsu Financial Corporation, and Charles Allen of Allen and Co.
Some five years later PIC Realty became sole owner of the hotel in Feb 1981 at the conclusion of the bankruptcy of the Vita Cos. The settlement provided $1.8 million in payments to 141 creditors and a $290,000 payment to the Vita Cos. At that time PIC Realty signed Hilton Hotel Corporation to a 25-year contract and implemented the name change from Adams Hotel to the Phoenix Hilton. Hilton brought in Andre Schaefer from the Anchorage Westward Hilton to be the general manager. Hilton Hotels Corp would spend $4 million on a 2 year upgrade program. The hotel’s food and beverage outlets, the Old Bar lounge, the Citrus Grove restaurant and the Sandpaper restaurant were re-done along with the public areas, meeting rooms and guest rooms.
Albert B. Spector Sr. died May, 1980 at his apartment at the Arizona Biltmore Estates at the age of 65. His company purchased the Adams Hotel in 1973 and razed it in order to build the new 19 story hotel which opened April 1, 1975. He also owned the Flame Restaurant in downtown Phoenix (34 W Adams St.).
In 1986 the Phoenix Hilton was acquired by a limited partnership headed by Mark Cohn of Greater Capital Real Estate Corporation of Burlingame, California from Prudential Insurance Co. of America. The acquisition price was $16,250,000. The hotel would become a franchised Hilton rather than a company-operated Hilton. Greater Capital Real Estate at that time also owned hotels in Chicago, San Francisco, Palm Springs and Tahiti. The hotel became the Omni Adams in 1991 after operating for 4 years 1986-1991, as the Sheraton Phoenix.
In 1993 Mark Cohn dropped the Omni Adams name and signed an agreement with Holiday Inn Worldwide to be the first Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza in Arizona. As part of the name change there was a $4.5 million renovation to all areas of the hotel. The hotel had a $109 average room rate prior to the renovation. A subsidiary of Holiday Inns provided the renovation loan. It is noted that Omni Hotels had desired to part ways with Cohn due to very late and unpaid bills.
In July 1999 Steve Cohn sued the city of Phoenix when the city voted to guarantee an $83 million loan for a 700 room Marriott Hotel and a guarantee on a $35 million loan for a 350-room Embassy Suites. Cohn thought the measures required city voter approval. A judge ruled in Cohn’s favor and the two tax payer subsidized hotels were never built.
In 2003 the hotel joined the Wyndham brand as part of a 10-year franchise agreement between the property’s owners, Phoenix Hospitality LLC and Wyndham International. The hotel was renamed the Wyndham Phoenix.
Steve Cohn, Mark Cohn’s brother, and the entity Phoenix Hospitality became owner of what was then the Phoenix Crowne Plaza Hotel in December of 1999. In May of 2003, the property was licensed as the Wyndham Phoenix. Steve Cohn served in the capacity of the property’s Managing Director under both brand affiliations for Phoenix Hospitality. He continued as the property’s Managing Director when the property was transferred to Phoenix Hotel Ventures in February 2007 and continued in that position until December 2011 when the hotel converted to a Renaissance Hotel and Marriott became the hotel manager. At that time, Steve Cohn and the entity PHXhotel LLC assumed the role of owner and asset manager.
In 2015 Steve Cohn CEO of PHXHotel, LLC, owner of the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown hotel, committed $10 million to improve Adams Street in accordance with the Adams Street Activation Study completed in 2013 via a City contract with the Gensler & Associates architectural firm. The design includes enhanced streetscape, shade, lighting and signage, provisions for new food and beverage, accommodations for special events and the relocation of the Renaissance Hotel’s main entrance to First Street. Without using one cent of public funds, the project includes a renovated façade, an expanded lobby, an improved arrival experience and open-air food and beverage venues with a priority for experienced local operators. The work will transform Adams Street into an engaging pedestrian friendly experience. At the October 28, 2015 City Council meeting, Mayor Greg Stanton thanked the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel for investing in the city. “This block is the front door to visitors from all over the country and the globe connecting our Convention Center to the rest of downtown,” said Stanton. The project is expected to finish in late 2017.
Paige Lund was appointed general manager in 2012. She is a 1993 graduate of Northern Arizona University School of Hotel & Restaurant Management.
What’s hotel brand loyalty? Seven hotel brands in 40 plus years.
1973 – Adams Hotel demolished
1975 – Adams Hotel opens
1981 – Phoenix Hilton
1986 – Sheraton Phoenix
1991 – Omni Adams Hotel
1993 – Crown Plaza Phoenix – Downtown
2003 – Wyndham Phoenix
2009 – Renaissance Phoenix – Downtown
Compiled by Dick Johnson, February, 2017