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Investor has renewed vision for charred Flamingo resort

The Flamingo Hotel Resort and Spa still offers one of the best views of the Coachella Valley, which is saying something for an aging Desert Hot Springs hotel that’s sustained massive fire damage and counts pigeons as its latest guests.

But it’s that view — combined with the city’s signature hot springs — that has the owner of Victory Tile and Marble firmly believing he can turn the scorched building remains into one of the world’s best spas.

“This is the Flamingo, rising from the ashes,” Victor Butte said, standing atop the hotel overlook. “I really like taking something torn down and turning it into something beautiful.”

Butte is the latest in a long line of investors who had hopes of transforming the 57-year-old hotel once owned by comedic actor Dom DeLuise.

Having owned the hotel at 67-221 Pierson Boulevard for about a year, Butte only recently received the city’s go-ahead to frame the project.

“The challenge to having a world-class spa is, first, it must be environmentally friendly so people feel a sense of renewal, lifestyle change and that it’s the one special place that exists for the greatest waters,” Mayor Adam Sanchez said.

“Secondly, wellness programming must be provided promoting good eating habits, things like yoga classes and healthy living.”

Butte says he’s up for the challenge.

A desert resident for 30-plus years, Butte has been traveling from mud baths in Calistoga to eucalyptus-lined steam rooms in Guadalajara, Mexico in order to research his plans.

He plans to tap into the two fountains behind the hotel and pump their sulfur-free waters bowl-to-bowl to avoid siphoning pool chemicals back into the ground.

The healthy palm trees amid the hotel’s vestiges suggest bountiful mineral wells are below.

Butte also is in talks with a doctor to turn his venture into a medical spa that would feature stem cell skin treatments.

Shooting for a February 2015 opening, Butte expects it will cost patrons more than $200-plus a night to book one of the 28 hotel rooms.

“I saw this place for a long time, but I never thought it was attainable,” Butte told The Desert Sun.

“I love mid-century modern. I like the simple lines, and there’s not a lot of frou-frou on it.”

Butte declined to say how much he paid for the hotel or how much he’s putting into its restoration.

Although Butte’s done a number of mid-century modern renovations, the charred, graffiti-littered hotel will be his largest undertaking.

The hotel will feature a 16-foot-tall flamingo, as well as two bars and a restaurant.

And Butte can already picture the sunbathers lounging near the seven pools.

“I want to take the best elements of the best places around and incorporate them into this one,” Butte said.

Previous plans for the hotel never quiet materialized.

In 2008, Desert Hot Springs gave $250,000 for renovations to the Malibu-based owner, Brian Bescoby, and promised an additional $250,000 in transient occupancy tax rebates.

But shortly after the economic incentive deal was reached, city officials said Bescoby ran out of money — resulting in a claim against the property to recoup some of the money when it went into foreclosure.

Bescoby’s BCB Resorts had purchased the property for $2.9 million.

Los Angeles-based Pacific Allied Investments was the next to try its luck in 2010, but contractor Steve Shin never got anything off the ground.

LWL Investment Group was slowly updating the then-pink hotel when the south side went up in flames in June 2012, with a firefighter sustaining minor injuries in the process.

Butte isn’t deterred by the hotel’s history.

“What hotel has a view like this?” Butte asked. “I bought it burned.”

The 1950s were a boon for spas in Desert Hot Springs, but some dried up unlike the hot springs that fueled them.

More than 20 resort hotels operate in the city, and most of the 14 that are members of the Desert Hot Springs Chamber of Commerce access the mineral waters, said President Heather Coladonato.

“You’ve got a lot of diversity in the tourists coming to this city, with international guests coming specifically for the hot, mineral waters and others for an experience a little off the beaten path,” Coladonato said.

“Celebrities wanting the opportunity to relax and rejuvenate unnoticed come to Desert Hot Springs.”

Article source: http://www.desertsun.com/story/news/2014/08/29/investor-renewed-vision-charred-flamingo-resort/14820761/

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