AZ Central – New retail, food and dining concept opens at Biltmore

Blending the serendipity and local flavor of street-front shopping with the parking and air-conditioning of mall shopping, a new retail concept called Union opens Nov. 9 at Biltmore Fashion Park in Phoenix.

The collection of 18 retailers, almost all Valley-based, fills a 7,200-square-foot strip on the east side of the upscale, open-air center, next to Stingray Sushi and Seasons 52.

It’s the first such project for mall owner and operator Macerich.

“We wanted a street of shopping,” said Mary Boyd-Williams, senior leasing manager for Macerich, which runs the Biltmore and other malls throughout the nation. “There’s great independent retail in Phoenix, but they don’t get a lot of foot traffic. And people love shopping in malls here, so this is the best of both worlds.”

Boyd-Williams partnered with longtime Phoenix retailer Lew Gallo, formerly of home-decor boutique Haus, to assemble the mix of retailers, determine the aesthetic and work out a lease appealing to family-owned businesses.

Union includes a variety of established Valley brands, including Whoopie Baking Company, Queen Creek Olive Mill, the candy store Smeeks, the Willows Home and Garden and the restaurant and wine bar Trattoria del Piero, which will be run by the olive mill.

Architect Hayes McNeil of Plus Minus Studio, who will run a mini Royal coffee shop at Union, designed the space as a mix of concrete and reclaimed barn wood, with unfinished ceilings that expose lighting and ducts.

Retailers were responsible for their own buildouts.

The lease is possibly the most forward-looking aspect of Union. A one-year term as opposed to the typical three, with 20 pages of “fine print,” as opposed to 40 for national retailers and with communal utility bills.

“I feel like this project will influence other malls around the country because they’ll see its success,” said Gallo, who will run the home and gift shop For the People at Union. “We wanted it to feel like a great shopping neighborhood like in San Francisco and New York, where everyone shops for everything they need — men’s, women’s, home, skin care, bikes, everything.”

Retailers have long grouped small shops together under one roof, said Bob Kammrath of Kammrath & Associates, a Mesa-based commercial real-estate research company.

But this is the first time it’s being done on a more upscale level in the Valley.

“This is exactly the opposite of what big players who managed malls were doing 20 to 25 years ago, when they just wanted big retailers,” Kammrath said. “And that didn’t work out…. Everybody is scratching their heads asking, ‘What can we try next that might work?’”

This mix of retailers helps to distinguish the Biltmore from other area malls, including Scottsdale Fashion Square, which shares several retailers.

And it enables the mall to appeal to the central Phoenix shopper, one who has demonstrated a preference for locally produced goods and Arizona-based retailers, Gallo said.

Cassandra Hunsdon, operations manager for Smeeks, the women’s and gift boutique Frances, and Frances and Charlie’s Newsstand, said Frances has been looking for a second location and especially wanted to open somewhere near other independent retailers.

“We wanted to come because of more foot traffic, and the big thing is for us to be featured next to other independent retailers,” Hunsdon said. “We are all about community and collaboration, and we have all of these businesses under one roof and this mix of people — it’s all just the perfect fit.”

AZ Central – Biltmore owners file for bankruptcy

by Megan Neighbor – Feb. 3, 2011 12:00 AM
The Arizona Republic

In a strategic move by its new ownership group to get a fresh financial start, the Arizona Biltmore, one of Phoenix’s oldest and most iconic resorts, has gone into bankruptcy.

The resort’s business will continue as usual during peak tourism season despite the filing, according to CNL-AB LLC, which is made up of investors from Paulson & Co. Inc. and Winthrop Realty Trust.

The announcement that CNL-AB was filing for Chapter 11 reorganization came only days after CNL-AB assumed ownership of the property at a Jan. 28 foreclosure auction.

Morgan Stanley Real Estate, the property’s lender from 2007 until last month, defaulted on a collateralized loan that CNL-AB had backed.

As a result, CNL-AB absorbed the Biltmore and seven other resorts included in an investment portfolio. It also assumed over $1.525 billion of debt, $1 billion of that from a securitized mortgage that matured Feb. 1, the day of the bankruptcy-protection filing.

Only five of the eight resorts in the portfolio are listed in the filing. One of the resorts acquired but not listed in the bankruptcy filing is the JW Marriott Desert Ridge in northeast Phoenix.

Its debt will become mature in May 2012, according to Armel Leslie of Walek & Associates, the corporation’s public-relations firm.

The Biltmore is one in a long string of hotels and resorts in the Valley that have switched hands in recent years. Property owners that sought financing during the economic boom in 2006 and 2007 are often saddled with debt payments that far exceed the property’s value and are forced into foreclosure or bankruptcy.

The Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort in Phoenix, the Intercontinental Montelucia Resort and Spa in Paradise Valley and the Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa in Litchfield Park are a few of the large resorts that have experienced more recent ownership changes due to financial troubles.

The Biltmore is a testament to the resilience of the industry. In February 1990, then-ownership group Lepercq/DBL filed for bankruptcy protection after defaulting on a $125 million loan.

The resort remained open and operating during the proceedings, as it will in 2011, the new ownership group said.

“The cost of paying management obligations of roughly $21 million to the resort manager is far outweighed by the benefit of preserving and maintaining the value of the debtor’s assets,” said Derek Pitts, managing director of Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc., the debtor’s financial adviser and investment-banking firm, in court documents.

The Arizona Biltmore is managed by Hilton Worldwide under the Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts collection, its luxury brand. A spokeswoman for the hotel would not comment on the bankruptcy Wednesday.

Under the Biltmore’s former ownership, the resort underwent a $16 million renovation. One upgrade included Ocatilla, a “hotel within a hotel,” which opened in 2009.

The Biltmore has 740 rooms and suites, and 100,000 square feet of meeting space.

In December 2009, Valley businessman and sports executive Jerry Colangelo and his partners purchased the Wigwam and two of the Biltmore’s golf courses for $45 million. The courses were not among the eight resorts and 14 golf courses listed in the bankruptcy filings.

In addition to the Biltmore, resorts in the filing are La Quinta Resort and Club in California; Grand Wailea Resort Hotel and Spa in Hawaii; Doral Golf Resort and Spa in Miami; and Claremont Resort and Spa in Berkeley, Calif.

Those not included in the filing, but part of the Jan. 28 acquisition, are JW Marriott Desert Ridge, Ritz Carlton Grand Lakes and JW Marriott Grande Lakes, both in Orlando.

The case is in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Southern District of New York, under MSR Resort Golf Course LLC.

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The Biltmore community is a master-planned development located right in the heart of Phoenix, Arizona and one of the most affluent districts in the city. Made up of several unique subdivisions, The Biltmore offers a wide range of real estate, from lofts and apartment styled condos, town homes, as well as single family homes to large family estates.

The homes in The Biltmore are predominantly 1920s and ’30s Spanish Colonial Revivals with dramatic arches, beautiful courtyards, adobe walls, and colored tile roofs. Many properties feature fireplaces, fountains, and detached guest houses. Biltmore residents take pride in their gorgeous, well-manicured properties, especially those along the coveted “Biltmore Circle.” Other types of homes include lavish condominiums, and for the golf enthusiast, patio homes are conveniently adjacent to the resort’s two 18-hole PGA courses. 

Area Amenities

The Biltmore area gets its name from the Arizona Biltmore Resort, once owned and operated by the Wrigley family of chewing gum. The Biltmore was designed by a student of Frank Lloyd Wright and bears his architectural influence. Now a part of the exclusive Waldorf-Astoria Collection, the Resort is located at 24th Street and Missouri on 39 acres in Central Phoenix.

The Resort offers a full spa, four restaurants, shopping, and a shuttle service to the Biltmore Fashion park with more high-end shopping the likes of Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s, and Cartier, and plenty of great restaurants. Across the street from the Biltmore, is the Esplanade Center which extends the shopping/dining choices. Try Houston’s for a great steak, Steamers for seafood, and the Merc Bar for an elegant cocktail in a quiet, graceful atmosphere.

In addition to the wonderful resort and spa, The Biltmore also offers two 18 hole golf courses at The Arizona Biltmore Golf Club.  Its two challenging championship courses – The Links and The Adobe – are living proof that the golf in Phoenix/Scottsdale area does not necessarily require that long and laborious drive to the outskirts of town.  Both of these courses were built in 1928 and completely restored in 2004 and are now for sale along with the Wigwam Resort.  Call The Holm Group today for further details.

Whether you are buying or selling a home in the Biltmore area, The Holm Group is here to assist you. The Holm Group represents both buyers and sellers throughout the Biltmore. Whether it’s a truly unique custom home, or a single family home you can rely on The Holm Group to ensure a smooth and successful transaction.

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