Frustrations mounting over delayed Palm Springs hotel project
After years of delays, the Orchid Tree Resort and Spa project in Palm Springs still has no end in sight.
The proposed 74-room hotel, which includes a restaurant, spa, and meeting space, has been in the works since 2014 and is approved to be built on the site of the historic Community Church and bungalows near downtown Palm Springs. However, the project recently missed two key deadlines, leaving City Council members frustrated.
The project's developer Richard Weintraub appeared before city council earlier this month to request changes to his agreement with the city. Among a number of other propositions, Weintraub asked for an extension to break ground until March 2024 and to keep 100% of the resort's transient occupancy tax for the first 10 years of operation, while also delaying payment of city fees.
His request for financial concessions was met with resistance from city council members. "We're still trying to make this project work. I don't know what more good faith we as a council or as a city can exhibit than nine years of trying to make this work," said Councilmember Lisa Middleton.
The discussion led to a tense exchange as Councilmember Ron deHarte asked whether it was "an all or none" deal. Weintraub responded there was not much room for tweaks to his requests, and deHarte pointed out he appeared to dodge the question. Mayor Grace Garner called the proposal and the developer's demeanor "unacceptable."
"What's before us is unacceptable. The tone is unacceptable. The conversations that we've just had have been unacceptable," Garner said. "We're asking you to do what you said you were going to do."
City leaders directed the developer to work with the city's staff on amending its agreement to move the project along without making unreasonable financial concessions. If they can't reach an agreement, the city can either maintain its original agreement or consider terminating it.
Developer Weintraub told the council, "I apologize for the amount of time it has taken. But sometimes things are worth the wait." However, as frustration mounts from city council and the uncertainty surrounding the project, it remains to be seen if the Orchid Tree Resort and Spa will ever break ground.