By: Michelle Reilly
On Tuesday, February 7, the Mesa campus turned a former hotel into its first residence hall. The Alhambra Hotel is located at 43 S. MacDonald Street in Arizona.
“We took a beautiful landmark that is at the heart of downtown Mesa and made a great thing happen,” University President Michael S. Brophy comments on the grand opening.
The renovation project cost $3.3 million and turned what was once a transient hotel into single- and double-room suites. The building comes with study areas, lounges, a café, kitchens, laundry and exercise rooms, an outdoor commons area, patio space and parking. The new facility can house up to 53 students, but with a second phase buildout, it will house roughly 10 more students. Nearly 100 people attended the dedication and ribbon-cutting, including students, faculty, staff, city officials, property developers and members of the general public.
“You can tell this is not a typical institution of higher education,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “Benedictine is very special. What a great addition to downtown Mesa,” he added. “To have 24/7, these vibrant, great students who are going to be a part of this neighborhood, who are going to keep businesses alive and attract a lot of exciting activity to the downtown area … this is the start of a very healthy community housing development in our downtown. That’s worthy of our celebration.”
The building first opened in 1894 as the Pioneer Hotel. It was then named the Alhambra and was one of the most popular places to stay, it was devastated by a fire in 1921. Although it did endure the test of time, the hotel fell into neglect and eventually served as a transitional-living facility and residential hotel.
“If you know anything about Benedictine, history is important to us,” said Charlie Gregory, campus executive officer at BenU at Mesa. “Community is everything, and we are proud to be a part of this community.”
The project all began back in August when a Phoenix-based developer, Venue Projects, and California-based Community Development Partners, bought the building for $1 million. The teams then reached out to Benedictine at Mesa because they knew they were in need of a residential facility for students. They then both came to an agreement and leased the property to BU at Mesa. Some students were in attendance at the ribbon cutting ceremony and could hardly contain their excitement.
“The facility is amazing,” said Ana Gonzalez, a junior Management and Organizational Behavior major. “I couldn’t ask for more. Everything is new. Students love the fact we are in Mesa, and that we are so close to school and all of the restaurants and businesses. We are really thankful that they chose this location,” she continues. Gonzalez, a Queen Creek, Arizona native, was named the first official resident assistant for Alhambra Residence Hall.
Before the new residential building opened its doors, student housing was available through an agreement with the Phoenix Marriott Mesa. The new residence hall is located near the Mesa Arts Center, which is only a mile away from the main campus building at 225 E. Main St.