Friday, March 31, 2006

Safari Drive rising at old hotel site

Peter Corbett
The Arizona Republic
Mar. 31, 2006 12:00 AM

SCOTTSDALE - It once was one of Scottsdale's swankiest spots, but for eight years the Safari Resort site downtown has been dormant, with its towering palm trees the only reminders of its past.

Now, a crane towers over the palms, and developers are hoping to bring some of the Safari's swing back with lofts, town homes, shops and restaurants.

The hotel was razed but the five-story Safari Drive project will take its place on a pie-shaped, nearly 5-acre property.

More than 200 residences in eight buildings are for sale, priced from $600,000 to $2.2 million.

With Safari Drive, Vanguard City Home and the Wolff Co. have designed an urban neighborhood with modern architecture, high ceilings, lots of glass, large decks and live/work lofts, said principal development partner Chris Camberlango.

"This is a current version of modern, downtown desert living," he said.

The $90 million Safari Drive project is a late entry into the $1.4 billion redevelopment boom downtown, with thousands of mid-rise condominiums, hotels, offices and retail filling the once low-scale downtown.

At least a half-dozen tower cranes are in a full swing these days within a mile of Safari Drive.

Local housing analysts question whether there is enough demand for all the vertical condo projects in Scottsdale and the Valley, but Camberlango and others are confident there is a market for their homes.

"We think there are a lot more than a thousand people who want to live in downtown Scottsdale," he said.

Still plenty of buyers

Realtor Laura Rightenburg of Phoenician Properties Realty agrees.

"I think there will be plenty of buyers out there for this product," she said of Safari Drive.

Rightenburg said she found two local buyers for Safari Drive who want to move from the edge of town to be closer to work and downtown's activities.

"This is really the beginning of high-rise living in Phoenix," she said. "I really think that this is what this town has been crying for a long time."

Safari Drive will do well, Rightenburg said, because its architecture is unique and the interiors are well finished without expensive upgrades.

Vanguard has experience building similar urban projects in San Francisco, Camberlango noted.

He described the buildings as having a finished, modern design - not an industrial look - with ground stone, weathered steel and some stucco.

Some of the lofts, townhomes and flats feature indoor-outdoor fireplaces that can be enjoyed from inside or on the deck.

Near mall, Waterfront

The desert-landscaped property, with three pools and other water features, will be built between Scottsdale Road and the Arizona Canal. The waterway will serve as a landscaped, linear park connecting Safari Drive to the Scottsdale Waterfront, southwest of Camelback and Scottsdale roads, and to Scottsdale Fashion Square, west of Camelback Road.

Although the Safari Resort was razed about eight years ago, Camberlango said the Safari Drive design is an updated version that pays homage to architect Al Beadle, who designed the hotel.

"We're huge fans of Al Beadle," said Camberlango, 38, who grew up in the Valley.

Reportedly Beadle was ready for the Safari to be torn down after so many renovations had compromised his design.

The Safari and Hotel Valley Ho both opened in 1956, ushering in a new era of hospitality to Scottsdale. A restored Valley Ho recently opened with a modern condo tower added.

New era of living

Now, Safari Drive is on the road to bringing in a new era of modern downtown living for Scottsdale.

The name is meant to evoke the idea of an amazing place or neighborhood, such as Rodeo Drive or Ocean Drive, Camberlango said.

Residents should start to move into Safari Drive starting in the first quarter of 2007.

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