‘Worth the wait?’ Reps for a long-delayed Palm Springs hotel project certainly hope so

Ambiguous phrases have appeared on signage that line the fence surrounding a long-delayed hotel project in Downtown Palm Springs. When it will open is still in flux.
Signage on fencing around the Thompson Hotel project in Downtown Palm Springs is meant to promote a sense of anticipation. Nearly two decades since plans were first unveiled for a project at the property, however, city residents are beyond frustrated.

“Tick tock.” “Around the corner.” “Coming soon.” “Worth the wait.”

Those mysterious, ambiguous phrases line the fence surrounding the unfinished 168-room Thompson Palm Springs Hotel at the corner of Palm Canyon Drive and Alejo Road in Downtown Palm Springs. When precisely a much-maligned and delayed project at the site will open is still in flux.

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At roughly four acres, the project’s massive footprint takes up an entire city block. The construction site is often one of the first things visitors and residents see when driving south through the city. 

In addition to the sweeping hotel, there are plans for a pool, at least two restaurants, a wine-tasting room, a spa, ballrooms, and retail stores. Representatives from the Thompson Palm Springs also appear eager to stand out against other unfinished hotels that dot the city. 

But for many years, the buildings that will one day make up the hotel have sat vacant and bare. The only change has been the hotel’s fluctuating opening date, listed on several large signs outside. 

Representatives from Thompson Hotels, a Hyatt brand, say things are different now. Sheetrock started going into place last week. And where there was once only a maze of scaffolding, completed walls and a painted exterior are now visible. 

Kelly Teo, director of sales and marketing for Thompson Palm Springs, said last week that the ground-floor restaurants and retail shops would be announced in the coming weeks.

“The cuisine of one of our restaurants will focus on Middle Eastern flavors,” he said. “Along with the wine bar and the 8,000-square-foot spa and wellness center, we really tried to look for and fill niches that weren’t served.”

Teo added that the Thompson Palm Springs aims to be a blend of luxury lifestyle and laidback Palm Springs culture.

“Hyatt has been in Palm Springs for 40 years,” he said. “We know the seasonality of the market, so we’re able to bring something we can sustain and develop throughout the summer, so we’re not just a weekend hotel.”

As for local support, Teo said he has been in contact with the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. “They love the association with Thompson,” he said. “They know it’s a huge asset, and they’re excited for more guest rooms coming into the market.”

Signs of active construction are visible at the Thompson Hotel project, formerly known as the Andaz Hotel, that takes up half a city block.

When complete, expect roughly 200 jobs to be created, including hospitality and sales positions.

Teo also hopes the Thompson Palm Springs will host local artists, musicians, and retailers. “We want to be a home for the community, for local events and culture,” he said.

The prominent project has been in flux for nearly two decades. 

The land the hotel now sits on was originally purchased in 2005 by developer Lawrence Rael, who planned to build condos. But the 2008 Great Recession led to a long delay, and in 2015, the city signed off on plans to build a hotel instead. 

Legal battles between a contractor and subcontractors led to further delays. Then Hall Group, which had supplied a loan that was eventually defaulted on, acquired the property in March 2020, just as the pandemic began. 

Two years ago, the city threatened legal action against the project — then called the Andaz Hotel — along with three other unfinished hotel projects: the Dream Hotel on Amado Road, the Orchid Tree on Belardo Road, and the Tova Hotel and Beach Club on North Palm Canyon Drive. Ultimately, the Tova project was demolished while the others began to inch forward.

Last July, developers of the Thompson project said a planned 2022 opening was being pushed back due to supply chain complications and increased costs for materials and labor. It was expected to partially open this spring, with final work done in July. 

As for the current opening date, some signs outside the project still proclaim “Opening Q2 2023.” A project representative said last week that a more realistic scenario would be that the first 100 rooms would open by the end of the year. 

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