Ten years ago, the Clarion Hotel in Ahwatukee was a popular spot for groups to hold meetings.

Even as recently as 2015, the Clarion Hotel near 51st Street and Elliott Road in Ahwatukee offered a popular meeting place for the Ahwatukee Republican Women, the Ahwatukee Tea Party Chapter and an assortment of business groups.

Doug Ducey spoke there in 2014 in his run for his first term as governor.

Hotel management around that time boasted of install of 100 solar panels

on the 34-year-old building’s roof so

that all power and water heating would be provided by a more sustainable power source.

But the Clarion fell on hard times, victim to shinier, newer competitors that offered more amenities at comparable prices.

Then came the pandemic-driven plummet in travel and The Clarion Ahwatukee was toast.

Now, it’s being converted into something else and attorney Larry Lazarus wants neighbors who live in the vicinity of the hotel at 5121 E. La Puente Avenue to know what it’s not going to be.

It will not offer temporary shelter to migrants awaiting disposition of their requests for asylum. And it will not be a Section 8 apartment building.

What the 188-room hotel will be offering are “110 multi-family units which will provide much needed, additional rental housing opportunities within the city of Phoenix,” he told neighbors.

Owned by Quinn Holdings LLC, the complex will be named The Quinn Ahwatukee and while it will offer two- and three-bedroom units, Lazarus said, “90 percent will be one-bedroom.”

Lazarus will be leading the effort by the owners to secure zoning changes for the property, beginning with a virtual meeting with neighbors on Sept. 14, then eventually this fall going before the Ahwatukee Foothills Village Planning Committee for a recommendation to the city Planning Commission, which then will make a recommendation to City Council.

Lazarus said he’s hoping to near completion of that bureaucratic process by the end of the year.

The zoning changes he is requesting are for both density and height.

The 188-unit four-story hotel consists of six buildings and 179 parking spaces on just under 3 acres of land with an additional 3.4-acre parcel next to it.

The sale price equaled just under $2.4 million per acre and $42,553 per unit, according to Valley real estate transaction tracker vizzda.com.

That price is a lot higher than the last time the hotel was sold.

Vizzda records show that in 2013, a couple and a woman bought the hotel, then a Quality Inn, for $3.23 million.

Lazarus said the density variance is because the current zoning would only allow for 98 apartment units. The height is more of a paperwork change, and the owners are not making the building any higher but merely getting approval for it to conform with existing zoning codes.

Quinn Holdings is related to HARC Holdings whose owners, Jay Chernikoff and Josh Wertlieb, have as mottos for their company “real estate reimagined” and “redefining rental apartments one hotel at a time.”

Their company also describes its mission as “finding the highest and best use for underutilized hotel properties.”

“We reuse functional space and re-imagine the footprint for a greater purpose,” it continues. “We focus our business on growing markets that have seen their supply of affordable apartments diminish over the past few years due to increased populations, rising rents and gentrification.  Our units are fully renovated and present a great solution for renters looking for quality infill product that still fits within their budget.”

They’re reimagining have two other properties they are converting into apartment complexes. 

HARC lists another hotel on the southwest corner of Priest Drive and W. Baseline Road, Tempe, as another of its complexes under renovation that will be called The Merlino.

One former hotel on Thomas Road is now called The Woods and is leasing one, two and three-bedroom apartments that boast, according to an ad:  “high end upgrades with modern finishes. Interior boasts exposed red brick accent walls and a modern NY vibe. 

“Kitchen is outfitted with quartz counters, generous cabinetry, and stainless steel appliances with a side by side fridge. Well-proportioned bedrooms come with individual closet and ceiling fans. Other upgrades include vinyl wood flooring, subway tile shower wall, and stackable washer/dryer in units.”

For anyone who has heard rumors that it will cater to less desirable tenants, consider this: applicants for a place at The Woods must have a pre-tax monthly income that is three times the rent.

Wertlieb in an earlier interview said he’s eyeing young professionals facing the same kind of low inventory among rental units in the Valley that homebuyers are confronting in the re-sale and new-build markets.

“It’s contemporary market rate apartments. It’s no Section 8. It is no migrants. It is not stuff like that,” said Wertlieb, who, with Jay Chernikoff, owns HARC Holdings.

“We think it’s a handsome building in a good location where people want to live,” Wertlieb said.  “And we think rather than an old run-down Quality Inn, it’s best served by being apartments for young professionals.”

Harc Holdings’ two partners are no rookies when it comes to converting hotels into apartment complexes.

Wertlieb, who lives in Phoenix, “has made a career out of finding value in a multitude of asset classes,” according to the company’s website. 

“He began his career running two successful fine wine wholesale firms and was widely recognized as an expert in old and rare wines.  His work included authentication services for the US Marshals Service in a high-profile counterfeiting case.”

Chernikoff, a Scottsdale resident and notable philanthropist, “has 15 years of experience as an owner and operator of commercial real estate in the Phoenix area,” HARC Holdings website states. 

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