The Saguaro in Scottsdale Gets a Fresh Coat of Paint and Some Cool Touches -- But It's Still No Ace Hotel

photos by Claire Lawton
​When the Sydell Group in New York announced last year that it had purchased a hotel property in Scottsdale, Manhattan could probably hear the squeals of delight coming from New Times' Phoenix office.

Sydell owns the New York and Palm Springs properties managed by the Ace Hotel chain -- the gold standard of boutique (read: funky, affordable, cool) hotels -- and we loved the thought of having our own Ace in Scottsdale. (Sydell's also behind the buildings Ace manages in Palm Springs and Manhattan, and Ace has two more locations in Portland and Seattle that operate in buildings not owned by Sydell.) 

Alas, it was just an idea. 

Sydell was horrified at the suggestion -- no, no, no, we were told, this property would not be an Ace. Last week we got a tour, and while the place has its charms (mostly thanks to Iron Chef Jose Garces, more on that in a minute) Sydell was right: The Saguaro is no Ace. 

If the Ace (specifically, its Palm Springs and Manhattan locations) is the Banana Republic of the Sydell empire, The Saguaro is definitely Old Navy, owned by Sydell and managed not by Ace, but instead by Joie de Vivre, a boutique hotel chain out of California. (And if you don't believe our Banana Republic Old Navy theory, consider that Joie de Vivre is opening a Saguaro less than a mile from the Palm Springs Ace later this year.) 

photos by Claire Lawton
The Ace is the stuff that super-popular riffs on hipster culture are made of. Literally. The Portland location was featured in an early episode of IFC's Portlandia. So make fun all you want (and it's easy -- with working turntables in rooms; the snobbiest of coffee purveyors serving drinks; and lobbies filled with taxidermy and photo booths), the Ace is the place.

As you've likely guessed by now, we're a little Ace-obsessed. We've stayed in the Portland and Manhattan locations and most recently, hit up the Palm Springs Ace for a night in December. It wasn't as luxe as The Parker (where we could only afford breakfast the next day) but the attention to detail -- from the band lineup in the bar to the taxidermied, pearl-draped coyote that greeted us in the lobby -- was clever and smart. 

We knew The Saguaro would likely not compare even before we saw the grounds. And to be honest, we weren't completely disappointed. It's absolutely a move in the right direction. But we can't help but wonder why Scottsdale isn't Ace-worthy. 

​Metro Phoenix is home to some of the finest resorts in the world (Four Seasons Resortthe Arizona BiltmoreRoyal PalmsCamelback Inn -- can we stop now?) and a few hip ones (the W comes to mind). So why not the best for us? Why are we stuck with performance fleece? 

photos by Claire Lawton
And it's not just that this place has a lower price point (thus the boutique definition). We get that. We're not expecting the Sanctuary, but doesn't metro Phoenix deserve something affordable that's a little better than the Clarendon with its funny-smelling, fading lobby (or, seriously, the bathrooms)?  

If any place should find success in this town as a boutique hotel, it's this one -- with a prime location on the Scottsdale Mall, which also houses the Scottsdale Center for the Performing Arts, Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art, and longtime favorite bar/restaurant, AZ88

And yet, no one's found success here -- yet. 

Originally a lower end chain motel, a Chicago-based company bought the spot around 2003, named it The James after its Chicago property, slapped some bright colors on it and called it a boutique hotel. We spent one uncomfortable night there during a summer special, got a spa treatment in a hot, saggy, stained cabana and stared at the popcorn ceilings that night, thinking, it takes more than a coat of paint to make a boutique hotel.

Location Info


The Saguaro

4000 N. Drinkwater Blvd., Scottsdale, AZ

Category: General

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Just wanted to clarify that Old Town Whiskey was also designed by Stamberg Aferiat Architecture. Creme did the design for Garces Trading Company and Distrito.

Wayne Michael Reich
Wayne Michael Reich

So, here we are again- yet another "I dislike/hate/are forced to settle with" bitch fest from PHX's whiny wannabe duo.

One of whom can't write her way out of readers' criticism and past charges of alleged literary fabrication, even with her faux-Mom's help- and the other who wants a chunk of Manhattan to come to PHX., mainly so she can forget the embarrassment of her washing out of NYC so many years ago.

Unless of course, failing a class in bar-tending is a precursor to being the Managing Editor of a slowly death-spiraling Pennysaver with Porn, that is.

On the up side, if you guys keep going like this, you'll surpass New Times' previous mediocrity of 2011 by March. I don't know about anyone else, but I'd say that's a safe bet.

For instance, you might want to fire your proofreader: "*(Note: if you're looking to steal one, most of them don't work, most of them don't work, we were assured.)"

[* If this part is correct, I can assure you it wasn't when I posted this retort.]

As always, Amy and Claire- you make poking fun at the obvious way too easy, although I'm sure that won't change anytime soon.

Release the trolls...

Wayne Michael Reich


I think when the Lexington on Central re-opens(new name coming one of these days)after a lot of construction you will be happy, very happy, maybe not Ace happy, but happy.

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