SmithGroup in Africa; Arizona’s Vistancia Popular; Hotel Industry Slowing

Posted By Mike Padgett

April 30, 2009

SmithGroup designs clinic for East Africa

A design prepared by a health care design team at the Phoenix office of SmithGroup is one of 50 chosen for display at the “Design for the Children” awards event in Seattle.

More than 300 international entries were submitted in the competition to design a sustainable and culturally-sensitive pediatric clinic model for East Africa.

The final winner will be announced May 2 at Seattle’s “Bubbles & Sweets” fundraiser, hosted by Humanity for Children. Design for the Children is sponsored, in part, by the Seattle chapter of the American Institute of Architects.

The SmithGroup team of seven architects and engineers was led by Lyle Steely, who personally spent 60 hours on the design. The design’s challenges, Steely says, included the “modest materials and unskilled labor that would be required to construct a healthcare facility.” The design features include rammed earth construction, cross ventilation and thermal mass.

The proposed clinic’s power supply includes photovoltaics. Rain hitting the roof will be harvested and purified by using a vehicle battery and a salt solution to create chlorine.

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Golf Community a Favorite

National Top 10 honors are shining on a multigenerational community built in a Phoenix suburb by Sunbelt Holdings and Shea Homes.

Vistancia, the 7,100-acre community in north Peoria, is ranked among the nation’s 10 top-selling master-planned communities by RCLCO, a national independent real estate advisory company formerly known as Robert Charles Lesser & Co.

The community at Happy Valley Parkway and Lake Pleasant Road reported 399 sales in 2008, ranking it seventh in its category, according to a corporate press release. This sales pace also makes Vistancia the top-selling master-planned community in metro Phoenix for the year.

Since opening in 2004, more than 3,400 homes and home sites have been sold. Its population of more than 6,000 live in three distinct neighborhoods: Vistancia Village, which offers homes by seven builders; Trilogy at Vistancia, a 1,000-acre, age-restricted resort-style community by Shea Homes; and Blackstone at Vistancia, a 590-acre gated country club offering custom homes by three home builders as well as a golf course designed by Jim Engh.

For more information, visit

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U.S. Hotel Industry in Major Slump, Officials Say

Construction of new hotels in the United States and the overall industry are in a slowdown that could last a year or more. In the first quarter of 2009, hotel construction analysts at Lodging Econometrics (LE) said there were 1,466 projects, or 192,448 rooms, under construction at the end of the first quarter of 2009. Those numbers are down 22 percent and 21 percent respectively from the peak in the second quarter 2008, according to Ken Simonson, chief economist at Associated General Contractors of America. Simonson cited the Lodging Econometrics analysis in his weekly newsletter.

Meanwhile, the lodging market’s recent performance is depicted as “deplorable” and in its worst condition in 25 years, says Lou Plasencia, president and CEO of Plasencia Group, a hotel brokerage and consulting firm.

In a story on, Plasencia is quoted as saying institutional lenders have on their books loans to hotels that have experienced declines in business. Those unnamed hotels, according to the CPN story, could end up in foreclosure.

Possible solutions for some hotels with fewer guests include reducing daily laundry operations to maybe every other day and ending hotel restaurants’ daily buffets. Plasencia says high-end resort and convention hotels are suffering the most, especially in the Caribbean, the story says.

“I don’t see most hotels returning to normal operating levels for another 12 to 18 months,” Plasencia said.


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Apr 30th, 2009

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