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Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort Completes $45 Million Renewal, Blending Reverence for the Past With Relevance for the Future


Renovation preserves historic elements through adaptive reuse while upgrading guestrooms and meeting spaces; A fresh focus on organic ingredients and local influences shapes culinary.

As Scottsdaleís venerable Camelback Inn, a JW Marriott Resort & Spa, puts the finishing touches on a $45 million renovation that involved virtually every aspect of the 71 year-old resort, historians and preservationists agree that the end result strikes a perfect balance between showcasing the best of the resortís storied past while setting a visionary course for the future. Carried out over 18 months, changes include creating a more dramatic arrival leading to a new grand lobby; debuting noted chef Laurent Tourondelís BLT Steak, and reclaiming the resortís original adobe bricks for use throughout the project.

ďAt its core, this project is about opening up the property to its inspiring desert surroundings while preserving its history and the unique Southwestern style that has made it a favorite of generations of travelers,Ē said General Manager Ralph Scatena. To that end, the resort tapped noted architectural firm Hill Glazier Architects to shape a resort setting that relies as much on tradition as innovation.

Throughout, original adobe was salvaged by specialty masons who were called in to reclaim it, piece by piece, in a painstaking, eco-friendly process that involved breaking down, remixing and reshaping the bricks according to original traditions. A team of expert craftsmen from Arizona Repair Masons spent several months duplicating the 1930ís method of adobe brick-making, a time-consuming endeavor that requires each brick to be set in individual hand-made forms and baked in the sun for up to two weeks.

A new tree-lined passageway with water and fire elements leads to a hacienda-style grand lobby with floor-to-ceiling doors that open onto the resortís expansive courtyard and the postcard views of Camelback Mountain beyond.

With its reclaimed adobe and vintage photographs, the lobby seamlessly blends old and new, creating an inviting setting for check-in at a desk fashioned of mesquite wood and highlighted by a back-lit photo of Camelback Inn circa 1936 (complete with horses tethered out front). Adjacent to the lobby, a new Arizona Discovery Room gives visitors a peek into the Innís storied past, with photos of noted guests such as John F. Kennedy, Bing Crosby, Clark Gable and Bette Davis; and books and other reference materials about the areaís history.

Camelback Innís courtyard was redesigned to better showcase the resortís abundant collection of native plants and flowers. Additions to the expansive setting are a mix of playful and practical, including an organic herb garden, waterfall, fire pits and a wind-chime sculpture created by architect Paolo Soleri. Soleri, a visionary Italian architect who settled in Scottsdale in the 1950s, has since become a local legend and a distinguished lecturer in the College of Architecture at Arizona State University. Soleri was also the recipient of a Cooper-Hewitt National Design Award for lifetime achievement in 2006.

The renovation at Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa, extended well beyond structural changes. The propertyís culinary experience has been elevated with a mix of local and regional flavors and organic ingredients, with a dash of celebrity sparkle. The resortís lushly landscaped outdoor areas now feature organic herb gardens designed by Camelback Innís new Director of Beverage Trudy Thomas, a noted expert and author. Woven throughout the outdoor areas, guests will find a half-dozen food & beverage venuesóranging from household names like BLT Steak and Starbucks to new classics like Ritaís Kitchen and R Baróthroughout the 125-acre resort.

With the October 2008 debut of BLT Steak, Laurent Tourondelís modern American steakhouse is beautifully executed within Camelbackís Paradise Valley setting. A long dark wood bar, reclaimed mesquite wood floors and striking views of Camelback Mountain afford guests a memorable setting for BLTís signature blend of American flair and French technique. The largest restaurant in Tourondelís portfolio, the restaurant features seating for 200 guests, as well as two private dining rooms, each accommodating 50 guests, and an outside courtyard area for private dinners of up to 30 guests.

At Ritaís Kitchen, guests enjoy simple, fresh Southwestern cuisine with Mexican influences in a rustic setting. Original adobe walls, reclaimed wood floors, beamed ceilings and stone and copper throughout create a warm and casual atmosphere for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Menu specialties include such traditional fare as Huevos Rancheros, Chicken Enchiladas and Flat Iron Steak. Organic lettuces, house-made soft corn tortillas and herbs from the organic herb gardens give the cuisine a home-style sensibility. Even the desserts capture a regional exuberance, including Mexican Chocolate Fondue, Churros and Indian Peach Cobbler.

With the renewalís completion, Ritaís Kitchen is once again the setting for Sunday Brunch, a beloved Camelback tradition dating back over 30 years. Served buffet-style with doors open to the courtyard, it is an experience without equal in Scottsdale. Brunch service includes made-to-order breakfast items, regional and specialty entrees, carving stations, sushi, raw bar, fresh fruit, salads and unlimited Champagne.

The spirit of the southwest also imbues R Bar, a lively gathering spot that draws guests in for tequilas, sangrias and margaritas, as well as inspired beers and cocktails such as Desert Pear Cosmopolitans, Southwestern Moonshine and Sonoran Desert Amber. The bartenderís fresh herb martinis change depending on the gardenís freshest bounty. R Barís Small Plates and larger Bar Plates menus feature casual bar fare such as Pork Burritos, Angus Sliders, Steak Skewers and Chicken Quesadillas. In the lobby, guests can enjoy the bounty of the herb gardens by sampling complimentary glasses of fresh non-alcoholic elixirs such as lemon-verbena infused water and hibiscus iced tea.

The culinary renaissance extends to The Spa at Camelback Inn, where a new menu at the award-winning spa cafť, Sprouts, features grilled bruschetta topped with unusual ingredients such as melon, quince jam, artisanal cheeses, pepitos and roasted artichoke hearts. Director of Beverage Trudy Thomas taps organic liquor, antioxidant-rich ingredients and the herb gardens for classic cocktails such as the Green Apple Teaíni using Juniper Green organic gin and a Bloody Mary garnished with fresh mozzarella, grape tomatoes and basil. Non-alcoholic herbal elixirs are also on the menu, including a Cucumber Cooler with fresh mint leaves and lime juice and Pomegranate Lemonade.

For those who simply need the quick jolt that only a cup of coffee can deliver, a new Starbucks offers the full array of Starbucks specialties with a view of Camelback Mountain from patio tables.

The renovation also includes the Innís 300 casita-style guestrooms, which now feature new flat-screen televisions, beds and carpetingóall inspired by Arizonaís colorful history and surroundings. Rooms now feature new artwork and bathroom fixtures, flat-screen TVís and revamped luxury suites.

A new 20,000 square-foot grand ballroom features soaring 24 foot ceilings and state-of-the-art keyless entry and security, full wireless connectivity and production quality lighting and sound capabilities. Accented by textured flagstone, wrought iron and decorative glass, the space divides into 12 sections to accommodate meetings of 20 to 2,000. An additional 5,000 square feet of foyer space includes two registration desks, and adjacent outdoor meeting spaces with views of Mummy Mountain are also available.


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