Yes, it’s true… The famed Monti’s La Casa Vieja property has been sold and this is the first time since 1954 that a Monti name hasn’t been on the deed to this historic property that was originally built in 1871 by Charles Hayden. In what could be a nod to the past, the new ownership group is called Hayden House Tempe LLC. The new owners paid approximately $16.9 million for the 2.5 acre parcel and plan to spend a cool $200 million to develop two towers at Mill and Rio Salado.
The 280,000-square-foot Class A office and 274-key hotel is sure to have some pretty awesome views of the lake, of Mill Avenue and the surrounding area. The development includes a 15-story office building, a 16-story Kimpton hotel and 17,000 square feet of restaurant and retail space. The new project is scheduled to break ground in mid-2015 with completion set for 2017ish.
“This is the front door to Tempe. We saw a challenge and opportunity,” said Wilson Chairman and CEO Douglas Wilson. “We came into the project knowing that we could meet Tempe’s desire to preserve the historic Hayden House and see a unique, mixed use development.”
Wilson said that the historic nature of the property, the Hayden family’s original homestead on the banks of the Salt River, provided a unique chance to do something very special.
The group plans to build a mixed-use “landmark” project that is being called urban and edgy which seems to fit in with the #TempeRising campaign the DTC has started.
For now, I’ve been told that it is “business as usual” at the Casa and at Tempe’s Front Porch.
With the city’s apparent rubber stamp for approving “luxury apartments” being built downtown, it’s interesting to see a new hotel and an office building being built on this prime piece of real estate. There’s a cool light rail piece being incorporated as well where “a walkway to the Third Avenue light rail station is part of the development.” Yes, our light rail system still seems to be a big draw for developers and residents alike.
The towers will rise from a combined pedestal with the 16-story Kimpton Hotel being located on Mill Avenue ( south of Monti’s ) and the 15-story office building set between the hotel and former U.S. Airways headquarters building on Rio Salado Parkway. ( West of Monti’s ) Yes, Kimpton is the same owners as Hotel Palomar at CityScape in Downtown Phoenix – Also right on the light rail line.
Business and Personal
Michael Monti is a family man. He’s got a wife that is beautiful inside and out and he has SIX children that he adores. The restaurant business and the demographics of the Mill Avenue district are changing rapidly. The price of beef has been rising nearly as much as the value of this amazing piece of ground at 100 S Mill Avenue. Securing a future for his family, spending time with them and making time for other interests have played a big part in the decision for him to strike while the iron is hot. I have no doubt that this “landmark deal” in Tempe has been bitter-sweet for Monti. He eats, sleeps and breathes this restaurant and the ground it sits on. If you’ve never had a chance to hear Michael tell stories about the history of this place, never walked these grounds and seen him light up with excitement from sharing the past or even taken the time to soak in some of the memorabilia that grace the walls of his restaurant, you really can’t begin to understand the process it has taken to get to this point in Tempe’s history.
Take a look at this video of Michael and I talking about this “Russian g-string or GFiber thing” in the bar at Monti’s. It’s a classic, if I do say so myself…
Once again, it is currently business as usual. Go grab some Roman bread, a huge steak, a Full Monti burger or check out the cool patio at Tempe’s Front Porch. I’m thinking of trying to get Michael to join us for a dinner in December as kind of a holiday party to sit around and talk about favorite memories. I’ll let you know if we can make something work.
**Updates: Per an email from the restaurant – “our doors will be closing on Tuesday November 18th.” However, the newspaper is reporting that the 17th is the last day they will be open.
PHX Business Journal article about the new towers at Monti’s.
AZ Central article about Monti’s closing date.
AZ Central reports that Tempe’s Hayden House has been sold.
Mouth By Southwest talks about Monti’s closing.
‘Sam Fox-Type’ restaurant planned for Monti’s space.
Monti’s to auction artwork, memorabilia December 4th
Tempe Approves Twin Tower Project at 100 S Mill
Here’s an update posted by Michael Monti dated 9/9/14:
Due to the overwhelming response from our loyal patrons, we are no longer accepting and NEW reservations for Monti’s. We’re booked solid and will only accept walk-ins if a reservation cancels or no shows. Thank you!
To all who have loved the food, hospitality and history of Monti’s La Casa Vieja, I would like to share an important message with you. Over the last several years, I have explored a variety of options to fully develop our 2.5 acre property in Downtown Tempe while preserving our historic building and its traditions. Recently we have entered into an agreement that will achieve this goal, and will also trigger several significant changes.
Our property at 100 South Mill Avenue will be developed to its highest and best use, with a well-planned and tasteful mixed-use design including office and hotel buildings, retail and parking. The pioneer Hayden House, a.k.a. “La Casa Vieja”, comprising the North 11,000 square feet of the restaurant, will be preserved and refurbished. The later non-historic additions to the restaurant–those sections built in 1968 and later–will be torn down to make room for the new structures.
Since the current kitchen is located in part of the non-historic structure, restaurant operations will have to cease during demolition, and cannot begin again until a new kitchen is built within the confines of the historic portion of the premises. That means that Monti’s will be closing soon. Although an exciting new restaurant will be occupying historic structure when construction is complete, it will not–and cannot–be Monti’s La Casa Vieja.
Over these past several years, as I have mulled over a number of ideas and proposals to develop the property, Monti’s has also been struggling with a fast-changing economy and a very different local market. The cost of beef recently reached an all-time high. Chicken, pork and fish are all also spiraling upward. Energy has spiked in cost dramatically. And labor cost has been on a steady rise. Recent menu price increases–very reluctantly taken–were not nearly sufficient to fend off the inflation tearing away at our margins. And when even the newest additions to a building date from the 1970s, the cost of upkeep is punishing.
Though past plans for the future development of the property always included a new incarnation of Monti’s, I have now come to the conclusion that to return as “Monti’s” would not be viable. The aforementioned conditions have forced me to conclude that, with or without developing the property, the business will soon need to undergo radical changes that would result in an experience that would be entirely diverse from the long tradition of family-affordable steaks in a casual western environment.
So now it is time for us to accept that while the future of the Mill Avenue District is bright and sure to be thriving, Monti’s must surrender to the transformation. Our tradition will live on in the hearts and minds of our many loyal patrons and past and present crew. The physical structure will remain as a permanent monument to Tempe history, for all to revisit and experience in its re-imagined form. From the depths of my heart I thank all who have kept us in business, both as customers and through the dignity of your labor, all of these years.
Michael Monti & Family,