PALM SPRINGS, Calif. - With Desert Fashion Plaza having lost its luster more than a decade ago, Palm Springs Mayor Steve Pougnet is looking forward to seeing the south entrance to the plaza demolished on Thursday. The mayor and John Wessman of Wessman Development will get to do the honors, launching the revitalization project for the property.
"We'll be driving a bulldozer right through it, absolutely," said Pougnet.
The first phase of the plaza project should be completed by the end of next year. The four-star hotel that's part of that phase should be finished by early 2015.
It all comes at a cost of more than $100 million, almost $43 million coming from Measure J funds, produced from a voter-approved 1 percent local sales tax increase.
"This 14 acres, in my view, is going to electrify downtown," said Pougnet. "It's not a retail mall. I want people to know that it's an entertainment and arts area."
The demolition ceremony will follow Pougnet's annual State of the City address at the Palm Springs Hilton. He's scheduled to speak at 12:15 p.m. during a chamber of commerce luncheon.
Pougnet told News Channel 3 that in the economic-development portion of his speech, he'll not only bring up the plaza project, but also the success of the 26-foot-tall Forever Marilyn sculpure that private money brought to the corner of Tahquitz Canyon Way and Palm Canyon Drive.
"In my wildest expectations I could not have told you honestly that we'd have people swarming at all hours taking pictures of Marilyn; that's why, of course, we put the Palm Springs sign behind it to brand it," said Pougnet.
The large likeness of the late film star is due to leave the city at the end of May, but since she's been so good for business, Pougnet isn't ruling out city help for a fund drive to purchase the sculpture, making it a permanent fixture of the city.
Following his speech at the Hilton, Pougnet will lead luncheon attendees to the Desert Fashion Plaza demolition ceremony. A free block party will follow next to the Forever Marilyn sculpture.
Tickets to the luncheon are $45 for Palm Springs Chamber of Commerce members, $65 for non-members. Free seating will be available in the hotel lobby.