Palm Springs residents frustrated with the lack of progress on one of the most significant developments ever built downtown might consider putting themselves in the shoes of Craig Hall.
Hall’s privately held company initially supplied financing for what was known as the Andaz Hotel, located at the key intersection of North Palm Canyon Drive and East Alejo Road. In 2020 it took over the entire project after the controlling entity sold its stake in the property. A relationship with Hyatt Hotels was retained, however, and the project was rebranded as Thompson Hotel with hopes of finally opening its doors in 2022.
Like multiple hotel projects underway in Palm Springs, and to nobody’s surprise, that date came and went with only more promises that a grand opening remained imminent.
The partnership of Hyatt and Hall Group seemed to offer the best hope yet that the project taking up half a city block might actually open its doors after suffering a series of setbacks since first being approved as condominiums and retail in 2006. But then came the pandemic and what Hall describes as one of the biggest challenges of a career spanning five decades that has seen him succeed in everything from commercial real estate to wine.
Hall’s not looking for sympathy from residents and leaders at City Hall who for years watched and waited as buildings decayed on four key acres downtown. But having only entered the picture less than three years ago, acquiring a massive project only 25% complete, and struggling through pandemic-related delays, you wouldn’t blame him if he was.
Following a brief tour of the property Thursday, Hall seemed both proud and relieved to finally be sitting in a room with tile on the floors and a wall of glass in place. His team of public relations professionals and hotel management was buzzing around him, having just shown off renderings of what would be in place after interior work was complete.
With drywall starting to cover up the internal guts of the massive project, the hotel seems to be on track for a promised partial opening later this year. The 70-something Hall also seems to have emerged from one of his toughest business battles since starting his company 55 years ago.
“This has been a real learning experience,” Hall said understatedly. “I knew it would be a challenge. But this has been a lot harder than I expected.”
Think you had issues getting a home repair done for the past two years? Try hiring dozens of highly-skilled laborers with better commuting options outside the Coachella Valley. Did you wait three months for your new screen door? Try placing orders for all the pieces needed for 164 hotel rooms, a ballroom designed to hold 250 people for dinner, and a pair of Mediterranean-themed restaurants.
“We had issues with engineering, then Covid delays, and with workers, the people who do this type of labor were hard to find in Palm Springs,” Hall explained as crews in hard hats worked feverishly throughout the property. “We have 150 people working here now, and we hope to get 30 or 40 more.
“Right now, we’re moving in a very positive direction.”