It all started with a man, a mule, and a mission. In 1913, the natural beauty of this idyllic spot, located at the base of the San Bernardino Mountains, beckoned homesteader Cabot Yerxa and his trusty black burro named Merry Christmas. His successful quest for water paved the way for modern explorers to continue the trek to Desert Hot Springs. These days, visitors come to stake a claim on the tranquility found at a cadre of boutique spas, and the back-to-nature state of mind in its village atmosphere.
Ancient geothermal forces spawned a vast aquifer 100 feet below the earth’s surface, filled with rich mineral water naturally heated to 180 degrees. These storied waters, said to have provided habitat to wildlife and sustained Native American peoples, are believed to hold powerful curative powers. A legacy of miracles is helping to fuel the dynamic community renaissance, now underway in Desert Hot Springs.
Speaking of H2O, although cities throughout the West struggle to procure and provide safe and adequate drinking water, Desert Hot Springs has been tapped as having some of the best-tasting water in the world. At the international Berkeley Springs Water Tasting and Competition, the same water served domestically in the City of Desert Hot Springs by Mission Springs Water District, has taken five medals in eight years of competition. With two gold, two silver, and one bronze, it has become obvious that there is no water in the west like the water in Desert Hot Springs.
Desert Hot Springs is the Coachella Valley’s gateway to Joshua Tree National Park. More than three million people each year travel historic Highway 62 to visit the unique wilderness to rock climb, hike, and camp in a setting unlike any other. Many of those same world travelers cap their journey by “taking the waters” in Desert Hot Springs to recharge and rejuvenate. Natural resources are a vital component of the future of Desert Hot Springs — so much so that the City’s vision statement for its General Plan has adopted the following motto: “The City of Desert Hot Springs is committed to becoming a world-class health and wellness destination based upon its famous miracle waters, unique desert ecosystem, spectacular mountain views, and natural environment.”
Long considered “off the beaten path” from the more high-profile desert resort communities, this spunky hot-water haven is a popular refuge for celebrities and sun seekers from all walks of life and all corners of the world. Poised to overlook other Coachella Valley cities and thousands of acres of protected mountain preserves, the great outdoors will always be an integral part of the Desert Hot Springs lifestyle.
“Commercial developers and investors are discovering that our short distance from other valley cities provides them with a captive market,” observes Mayor Alex Bias. “Businesses that locate in Desert Hot Springs can rely on a significant market share for their goods and services. Businesses here will reap a significant return on investment.”
he Desert Hot Springs Spa Association represents small inns ranging in aesthetics from minimalist to naturalist, to the larger, resort-style properties with complete spa amenities. Desert Hot Springs’ health and wellness niche is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the hospitality industry.
A Cornell University study of the spa market suggested that Desert Hot Springs’ mineral waters are not only valued for their curative properties, but are also especially rich in silica, leaving the skin soft and smooth.
As a testament to Desert Hot Springs’ plucky resolve, folklore and legends live on. Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort is legend to have been named by the U.S. Army Camel Corps. The distinctive and ornate solid-rock fortress on this resort property has been attributed to infamous Chicago gangster Al Capone. In its recent past, the very private 56-acre Two Bunch Palms Spa Resort served as a lush backdrop for intrigue in the Robert Altman movie The Player.
Two Bunch Palms is embarking on a renaissance in its own right. The property was recently purchased by King Ventures, a niche developer of natural mineral spas and wellness centers. President and CEO John King is committed to reclaiming and revitalizing true healing places where international visitors can not only pamper themselves, but also renew their well-being.
Talks are now underway with world-renowned physician Andrew Weil to create a healing arts center for his Program in Integrative Medicine (PIM). The principle of the program is to train physicians, nurses, and allied health professionals to implement the best practices in health care, using rigorous scientific studies in conjunction with the healing waters of the City’s natural hot springs.
Says Deborah Morris Coryella, director of King Venture’s Health and Wellness Division, “We feel blessed to have the opportunity to transform the innate healing power of Two Bunch Palms into a widely recognized destination for both allopathic and non-allopathic medicine, as well as an active internship site for holistic health practitioners.”
A master plan for the Two Bunch Palms area will bring an eclectic mix of hot-water uses, 350 residential units, a hotel expansion, and public access to restaurants and hot pools. Plans for the residential health villages include plumbing to allow homeowners to soak in lithium spring water in the privacy of their own bathrooms.
From a growth and development standpoint, Desert Hot Springs is making the most of its sweeping valley views and natural environment. Project entitlements have been recorded for 12,000 homes. An additional 12,000 are in the entitlement process. With the rapid increase in population and income demographics steadily rising, the City is positioned for accurate business investment.
The housing mix is diverse and intended to appeal to families, seniors, and high-end buyers who literally want to “move up” to more open space. Mayer-Luce Development Group’s Tuscan Hills is planned as a 505-acre gated country club featuring 2,000 residences in single family, active adult, and condominium configurations.
The neighborhoods will surround an 18-hole championship golf course designed by Tournament Players Design, led by World Golf Hall of Fame member Johnny Miller.
“Tuscan Hills combines a remarkable mountain setting with championship golf by one of the finest golf architecture groups in the world,” says Walt Luce, CEO of Mayer-Luce. The project will feature a well-appointed clubhouse with first-class amenities, pro shop, generous open spaces, and multipurpose trails. The first phase is set to open in summer 2008.
Current and future residents have a great deal to look forward to in the way of retail, medical, and cultural offerings. Working in concert with Desert Healthcare District, a blue ribbon committee is developing a Community Healthcare Business Plan. The purpose of the plan is to identify and guide health-care resources for this growing community into the future. A comprehensive downtown revitalization plan is also underway to enhance the street scene along main thoroughfares and complement an expanded civic center campus that includes a community center, public swimming pool, and amphitheater, along with additions to the public library and senior center. Many “long-timers” praise Desert Hot Springs’ so-called splendid isolation. As they say, no one arrives in town by accident, since it’s not directly on the way to anywhere else. The town is its own destination. Current-day city advocates aim to preserve the community’s individuality, while rounding its edges to provide an inclusive menu of creature comforts, surrounded by the flora and fauna that are the natural miracles of the desert.
What’s emerging in Desert Hot Springs is the whole package: a quaint and friendly place to spend quality leisure time, as well as a vibrant, well-rounded community in which to raise a family or actively retire. City officials, business owners, and residents are committed to managing the delicate balance of its natural beauty and natural resources with one desire for quality development.”