SmokeTree Resort revitalization begins Paradise Valley deliberations May 24

A concept image of what a revitalized SmokeTree Resort in the Town of Paradise Valley could look like. (Submitted graphic)

Not since Adam West first dawned the cowl of the Dark Knight on the American Broadcast Company has much thought been given to the breadth and scope of the SmokeTree Resort in the Town of Paradise Valley.

But earlier this year the legacy resort property at 7101 E. Lincoln Drive changed hands for a reported $10 million and new ownership is eying a new chapter for the boutique resort on the edge of paradise.

The original resort, which was established in 1966 and maintained in perpetuity, is now under the guise of a partnership between Phoenix-based Geneva Holdings and Scottsdale-based Ventana Hotels and Resorts.

Paradise Valley Town Council is expected to begin municipal deliberations regarding the special use permit amendment application at Town Hall, 6401 E. Lincoln Drive, Thursday, May 24.

Paul Michaud

Paradise Valley interim-Community Development Director Paul Michaud confirms internal review of the SUP amendment application is under way.

“SmokeTree filed their formal application this past Friday, (which is) still under staff review,” he said. “You can view the file and get copies after completing a public record request.”

Embedded within the project’s narrative, which was filed Friday, May 4, is an idea to bring a four-star boutique resort to life at the SmokeTree site.

“The vision for the transformation of the Smoke Tree Resort is to welcome guests to a four star ‘local-centric’ hospitality experience in both form and substance. This is to be achieved through active forward-facing components and lifestyle programmatic aspects,” the project narrative reads filed on behalf of Gentree LLC, the entity with ownership rights to the property.

“The existing resort often goes unnoticed in its unassuming character along Lincoln Drive, with only 23 of its 32 guest rooms currently in use.”

The 5.3-acre site is at what development officials have coined, the “commercial interface” of Lincoln Drive and Scottsdale Road, the narrative states.

At first blush, basic elements of the SUP amendment requests are:

  • 150 hotel guest rooms with 30 additional resort dwelling units for resort residences to be privately owned, but part of the overall guest room rentals;
  • Proposed building heights are no higher than three stories ascending to two different tiers; one is 36 feet while the other is 44 feet.
  • Restaurant, bar, and markets with some resort retail associated.
  • Group hall to accommodate events such as banquets, meetings and ceremonies.
  • Event gardens for ceremonies and special events.
  • Resort pool areas.
  • Combined surface and underground valet parking of 90 cars each.

Paradise Valley Town Manager Kevin Burke says the May application submittal is a welcome site.

“We are extremely excited to see the property going forward with redevelopment at one of the entrances to the Town of Paradise Valley,” he said. “It makes a statement the second you come into town — having that reinvention is important to the community from a number of perspectives.”

Kevin Burke (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

Mr. Burke explains at first look, the SUP amendment proposal is in-tune with resort development of the 21st Century — a mixed commercial use, more rooms and a real estate element.

“We still don’t know if this is going to be name brand or an individual operator,” Mr. Burke said. “Those are the questions we are still curious about. But we do know we are getting that mix of ownership and rental, which is consistent in what we are seeing in resort redevelopment.”

Mr. Burke anticipates a Statement of Direction — a set of marching orders for the council’s Planning Commission to dissect the proposal with town council rendering the final decision.

Mr. Burke estimated the SUP application could be before the Planning Commission in mid-June.

“The good and the bad about the special use permit process is you can ask for anything but everything has to be approved by town council,” he said pointing out the weight of the council decision on building parameters. “There is no limit, there is a guideline at best, you can ask for anything but council can say, ‘yes’ or ‘no.’”

An overview sketch of the proposal now at the Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

The buck stops here

Paradise Valley Mayor Michael Collins says the General Plan calls for a revitalized SmokeTree Resort — and that’s what he hopes will come to fruition, he says.

“Redevelopment of the SmokeTree Resort would represent the completion of the long-range resort redevelopment planning efforts that started with town-wide approval of the 2012 General Plan update,” he said.

An overview of the property site at roughly the border between Scottsdale and the Town of Paradise Valley. (Submitted graphic)

“This East Lincoln South Redevelopment Area, which includes the new Hyatt Andaz Resort, represents the last planned resort redevelopment area within the town. It is gratifying to see the possible completion of our long-term resort redevelopment planning efforts, which will provide enduring financial security for the town and will ensure that residents will never need to pay a local property tax to keep our town safe, operationally effective, and looking beautiful.”

Mr. Collins points out the great debate of how and at what level the SmokeTree Resort will emerge has yet to pick up steam.

“It’s incredibly early in the process right now, and these resort redevelopment proposals take a number of twists and turns before use and site plan clarity comes to focus,” he said. “Each resort property has unique challenges and opportunities and we look forward to seeing how well the applicant can integrate the proposed resort project with the adjacent neighborhood and local environs.”

With commercial and residential uses surrounding the property, Mr. Collins points out a unique solution will be struck between municipality and development.

“Key to a successful project will be an appropriate integration of form and function with the adjacent residential properties as well as compatibility with existing and proposed improvements at the Lincoln and Scottsdale roads intersection.”

Traffic concerns and density issues have yet to materialize, Mr. Collins says.

“Traffic will continue to be an issue at this location and any proposed redevelopment project in the area will need to make sure that it is designed appropriately so as not to increase congestion in the area beyond acceptable levels,” he pointed out. “As we have learned from experience, density usually means dollars to the developer, and so finding the right balance of acceptable density and form is a site-specific and complicated process. The initial plan looks pretty dense and tall to me, but these things change as they mature during the town review process.”

But everything can be viewed as a negotiation — especially the rebirth of coveted property in the Town of Paradise Valley.

“I am optimistic that we can find an acceptable combination of density and height that will make the project work financially for the owner, while minimizing impacts to the surrounding neighborhood and providing another quality resort property opportunity for the town,” he said.

A view of the Town of Paradise Valley municipal complex at 6401 E. Lincoln Drive. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

North Valley News Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at 623-445-2774 or at tthornton@newszap.com

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