Arizona Republic: 'The timing might be just about right' — New hotel opens in downtown Phoenix despite pandemic

Arizona Republic: 'The timing might be just about right' — New hotel opens in downtown Phoenix despite pandemic

February 19, 2021

A new hotel has opened in downtown Phoenix amid perfect weather, a smattering of room reservations and bountiful hope for a revival in personal and business travel.

The new AC Hotel Phoenix Downtown debuted Thursday afternoon, roughly two years after construction began. The opening was delayed about a month by supply issues tied to the pandemic but not due to weakness in tourism.

“We felt confident enough, not just with our brand but with the location,” said Brian Robinson, the hotel’s general manager. “It’s a wonderful location, and we felt the timing might be just about right.”

Grassy urban location

The 199-room, 13-story boutique hotel sits on what was a grassy patch near the northeast corner of Arizona Center on Fifth Street north of Van Buren Street. An outdoor patio and firepit area spills out onto a grassy section of the Arizona Center near shops and restaurants. The patio will feature live concerts and other entertainment designed, in part, to attract local residents, said Melissa Balthazor, the hotel’s director of sales.

Another notable attraction is a penthouse fitness center.

The hotel is located near medical-focused facilities run by Arizona State University and the University of Arizona, with TGen, the Translational Genomics Research Institute, a stone’s throw away. The Phoenix Convention Center is a couple of blocks south.

Low-key opening

The hotel welcomed its first guests Thursday but, with travel and tourism suppressed, it won’t become an overnight sensation. Management is projecting just a 30% occupancy rate over the hotel’s first 30 days.

More robust bookings might need to await broader distribution of COVID-19 vaccines along with a resumption of leisure and business travel on a wider scale. Downtown Phoenix has suffered more than 70 convention cancellations since the pandemic began roughly a year ago, said Balthazor.

AC Hotels are a Marriott brand named after Antonio Catalán, a European hotelier who sold properties to Marriott. The new downtown facility is the fourth AC hotel in the Valley, along with one in downtown Tucson. The latest hotel is a joint venture between Dallas-based NewcrestImage and LaPour Partners of Las Vegas.

Rooms and lobby areas feature contemporary, minimalist European design. For example, they’re devoid of the tourist brochures and magazines you would find in other hotels.

“It’s everything you need but nothing you don’t,” Robinson said.

Individual rooms don’t even have alarm clocks. “They seemed extraneous now that everyone’s using their phones,” Balthazor said.

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