By Amy Blaisdell
It's a well-known fact around the globe that like no place else, Palm Springs in in demand … and we've got BUZZ!
Yes indeed! It's been another blockbuster, record-setting year for Southern California's most legendary resort playground. Once a haven to Hollywood mega-stars like Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Liberace, Elvis Presley and Lucille Ball, Palm Springs has experienced a historic transformation over the past several years — and is now the hippest, most happening, ultra-cool resort destination in Southern California and beyond.
In fact, there's no doubt that thanks to the City's transformative Downtown Revitalization Plan, a host of innovative community and economic development projects, incentive programs, multi-million dollar hotel renovations and uniquely original special events and tourist attractions, the City has renewed itself into a fun yet sophisticated destination for all generations of residents and visitors to enjoy.
The most exciting project in the city continues to be the redevelopment of the former Desert Fashion Plaza on Palm Canyon Drive. Last October, a much anticipated new 170-room Kimpton Hotel broke ground where the mall used to be located in the heart of downtown. The sleek new hotel will feature a magnificent roof-top pool, bar, and signature restaurant along with meeting space, all wrapped in the City's iconic modern architecture and surrounded by gorgeous mountain vistas. In addition, a new West Elm furniture design retail store has broken ground and City staff is working with Wessman Development to secure even more top quality retail tenants for the dramatic new outdoor shopping and dining complex. Another important part of the project coming soon, a new downtown park across from the Palm Springs Art Museum.
"It's happening folks! After years of hard work by our City Council, staff and the developer, the Kimpton Hotel and West End are now vertical. Real progress is moving forward on a project which is critical to the economic success of Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley," says Mayor Steve Pougnet, who adds that once completed, the project will be a tremendous economic driver.
Beyond the Downtown Revitalization Plan, a host of other exciting improvement projects are currently underway in Palm Springs thanks to the passage of Measure J. From street paving to park improvements — to the opening of the newly renovated Welwood Memorial Public Library in downtown, a plethora of transformational, quality of life projects are coming to fruition.
Another exciting Palm Springs development that just keeps getting better is the summer pool party and music weekend, Splash House, produced by Goldenvoice and LED, which is now in its third year at three amazing venues: the Hard Rock Hotel, the Hilton Palm Springs and the Saguaro Hotel.
"Splash House continues to be an amazing summer success story," says Mary Jo Ginther, director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism. "It just keeps getting bigger. More than 5,000 people came in June and August to enjoy the city's ultracool vibe along with some talented, up and coming DJ's. Palm Springs is no longer a sleepy village in the summer months."
In fact, visit downtown Palm Springs and you'll see it's a bustling with residents and international visitors from all walks of life enjoying eclectic shops, galleries, and unique dining destinations. In fact, Palm Springs continues to be prominently featured in popular sitcoms, reality television, travel shows, fashion magazines, and Hollywood blockbusters.
Another blockbuster everyone is buzzing about, the new fast and free BUZZ Trolley. Since it launched last December with a star-studded kick-off party featuring legendary local celebrities like Suzanne Somers, Nancy Sinatra, Jerry Weintraub, Gavin Macleod, Carol Channing, Jack Jones, Lily Tomlin and Gloria Greer, more than 5,000 residents and visitors have enjoyed the trolley, which runs every 15 minutes from the Riviera Resort through Uptown and Downtown to as far south as the Saguaro Hotel.
"The BUZZ has been a huge hit," says Ginther. "It's a hip, happening and fun way to get around town fast and free and a fabulous new addition to the city."
Yet perhaps the most exciting moment this year for the Palm Springs destination was when Nicolas Ghesquiere, the world famous designer who leads French fashion house Louis Vuitton, chose the iconic Bob Hope estate in Southridge to host the couturier's much-gabbed about Cruise 16 Collection. It was a star-studded event, which featured international celebrities from all over the world, including Catherine Deneuve, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Selena Gomez, Michelle Williams and pop star Kanye West.
"The premiere of Vuitton's Cruise 16 collection in Palm Springs was a huge get for the city and created over a billion media impressions worldwide. You simply can't buy that kind of buzz," notes Ginther. "It's priceless and just more proof that Palm Springs is in huge demand."
Not surprisingly, film and television producers from around the world are also flocking to Palm Springs to shoot their productions. With that in mind, the City Council approved a popular "Film Friendly" Incentive Program, which provides grants of up to $5,000 for lodging, rentals, food and beverage and location assistance. Additionally, the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism developed a new "virtual film office" located at PSFilmFriendly.com, which assists locations managers and filmmakers in finding the perfect spot for their production while providing them with important introductions to local tourism partners.
Incorporated in 1938, Palm Springs also boasts a variety of unique tourism attractions that bring visitors back year after year, including the breathtaking Indian Canyons, the magnificent Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, the renowned Palm Springs Art Museum and its new Architecture and Design Center, along with several hugely successful and important special events — including Palm Springs Village Fest, a popular weekly street fair held every Thursday night along Palm Canyon Drive, the spectacular Palm Springs Festival of Lights Parade held every December, Palm Springs Modernism Week and the world-famous Palm Springs International Film Festival.
Consistently voted the Coachella Valley's most popular special event, the film festival, founded 27 years ago by then-Mayor Sonny Bono, draws in thousands of visitors every January. It features a starstudded Awards Gala and has honored some of the best actors, writers and directors in the world — including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Colin Firth, Clint Eastwood, Sean Penn, Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck, Quentin Tarantino, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore, Meryl Streep, Sandra Bullock, Julia Roberts, and many more.
Another major economic driver for to the City's economy is Palm Springs Modernism Week, a sophisticated 10-day homage to the ideals of mid-century modern architecture. The event, held every February, celebrates a renewed appreciation for the City's famed modernist roots as well as vintage furniture, jewelry, clothing, and memorabilia.
Some of the more famous examples of mid-century modern treasures in Palm Springs include the 1946 Neutra-designed Kaufmann House, the Bob Hope house designed by famed mid-century architect John Lautner in the city's Southridge neighborhood, and the iconic Tramway Gas Station, (now the Palm Springs Visitors Center), designed by Albert Frey, John Porter Clark and Robson Chambers. It is their work that inspired Modernism Week — and organizers have added a new "Fall Kick-off" in October, featuring a series of double-decker bus and walking tours, films, lectures, exhibitions, cool parties, and much more.
And when it comes to all things modern, downtown Palm Springs is celebrating new and emerging shops, restaurants and boutiques — many in the City's flourishing Uptown Design District that focus on modern décor and interior design. In addition, Downtown and Uptown along with South Palm Springs continue to see a gluttony of new and expanded eateries, including Mr. Lyons, Appetito, L'Atelier Cafe, Gyoro Gyoro Japonaise Izakaya, Dish, Bootlegger Tiki, Ernest Coffee and the super chic new Eight4Nine Restaurant and Lounge in the Uptown Design District.
In fact, Palm Springs tourism and hospitality are thriving, according to Pougnet, who notes that continued tourism and hospitality gains over the past several years are the result of a more than $200 million reinvestment in the City's hotel stock, along with the implementation of the City Council's popular Hotel Incentive Program.
Coming soon to Palm Springs, the new 32-room Arrive Hotel designed by local Chris Pardo. Other Palm Springs properties that have recently refreshed their looks include the Hilton Palm Springs, which underwent an $8 million transformation, the former Holiday Inn is now the hip and colorful Saguaro Hotel — and the former El Rancho Lodge in South Palm Springs is now the rustic Sparrows Lodge. In addition, the former Spanish Inn recently opened as the Triada Resort & Spa, a Marriott Autograph property located in the Uptown Design District and the former Hotel Zoso is now the ultracool Hard Rock Hotel. Not to mention, famed attorney Mark Geragos recently purchased the Curve Hotel in South Palm Springs, which is currently undergoing a dramatic transformation.
"These new and/or upgraded properties allow the Palm Springs brand to renew itself and reach every generation of visitor," Ginther says.
And when it comes to stimulating our economy and supporting as many as 1,000 local jobs during peak tourism season, the tremendous success of the city's Airline Marketing Incentive Program at Palm Springs International Airport has proven to be another extraordinary economic driver for the Coachella Valley. The City Council committed $1 million to the program and popular Canadian airline WestJet was the first to take advantage; followed by United, Alaska, Allegiant, Virgin America and Air Canada Rouge. Most recently, JetBlue announced nonstop service to and from Palm Springs International Airport to JFK in New York beginning in January 2016. This brings expanded service to Palm Springs and the entire Coachella Valley — and coupled with nearly $100 million in improvements along with a new $25 million airport traffic control tower, new excitement to Palm Springs International Airport.
So as Palm Springs experiences a renaissance for the ages, the city continues to transform and reinvent itself for every generation of resident and visitor. When it comes to hip, happening and ultra-cool, according to Pougnet, "Like no place else, Palm Springs has got BUZZ!"
Ginny Foat, Rick Hutcheson, Chris Mills