Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage expected to debut in March

Natalie Brunell has the story

RANCHO MIRAGE, Calif. - The pristine property at the west end of Frank Sinatra Drive will once again be home to the Ritz-Carlton Rancho Mirage.  

"When the Ritz closed it did change things a little bit on this end of Rancho," said Wendy Price, manager of the Crab Pot restaurant on Highway 111. 

The hotel changed hands several times in recent years.  It was originally the Ritz from 1988 until 2001 when it became the Lodge at Rancho Mirage. The Lodge closed in 2006, with developers intending to turn it back into the Ritz-Carlton.

But construction stalled in 2008.  

"The project was originally funded by the Lehman Brothers, who went bankrupt, and it took quite a lot of time to find an investment group to come in and recapitalize the project," said Scott Hines, Rancho Mirage City Councilman.  

Now construction is back in full swing, and local businesses eagerly await the resort's first visitors.  

"We're really excited about it because it would bring new business here and more opportunity for everybody.  Just to get a new energy would be nice," Price said.

Owners of Koffi on highway 111 told us the proximity to the Ritz-Carlton property was one of the main reasons for opening the coffee shop there.  

And the city hopes it will bring in substantial tax dollars.  

"The Ritz-Carlton will bring over a million dollars in tax revenue to the city of Rancho Mirage," Hines said.  

The opening of the resort has been a long time coming.  Originally set to debut by Christmas, new developers had to push that date back because of construction setbacks. They found unanticipated issues with plumbing and electrical, in addition to problems caused by the buildings being dormant for so many years.  

"There were some copper wire theft issues, some of the equipment just sort of disappeared and that has taken a little time to recover from," Hines said.  

But as one of the first people to see the resort coming together, Hines expects it will be smooth sailing until the opening next spring.  

"I just walked through the property two days ago and it looks spectacular.  It's everything you'd expect from a five-star hotel," Hines said.  

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