This week we’re going to take a look at an upcoming event to help artists sell their work in our local shops. Plus an interview with Moniqua Lane. She’s the force behind the Downtown Clifton and Citizen Hotels.
Today is September 4th, Happy Labor Day, my name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to “Life Along the Streetcar”.
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This week we’re going to take a look at an upcoming event to help artists sell their work in our local shops. Plus an interview with Moniqua Lane. She’s the force behind the Downtown Clifton and Citizen Hotels. Today is September 4. 2022. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to Life Along the Streetcar, where each and every Sunday we talk about the social, economic and cultural impacts in Tucson’s urban core. We shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about, from a mountain to the University of Arizona and all stops in between. You get the inside track right here on 99.1 FM, streaming on downtownradio.org and also available on your iPhone or Android. By downloading the Downtown Radio Tucson app, you can reach us on the show. Our email address is email@example.com.
That same URL will take you to all of our past episodes. People find us on Facebook and Instagram and our podcast is available pretty much anywhere you listen to podcasts, at least all the major ones. Well, there are a lot of artists in Tucson and I admire the amount of talent and skill that is prevalent in our community. And as someone who just recently completed a book, I found that the creation of it was a one process and distributing it was a second process. And in talking to a lot of the artists in town, found that this really can be a challenge because the creative mind doesn’t always work in the business world. So there are some challenges occasionally in figuring out how do you bring those two elements together? Well, the team over at Creative Kind, they’re a shop here in Tucson. I think they also have one in Phoenix. They have created an event. It’s going to be happening this coming Friday on the 9th. And it is a round table discussion with a lot of our local shop owners that sell
local art. There also is going to be a pop up market with a chance to visit with some of these artists. But this is going to take place at the Citizen Hotel in downtown and it’s going to be talking about wholesale consignment. And that is a process by which the art is flowing through the shops and the artists are paid upon sale. And they’ve got some pretty big names there. They’ve got Deed Conan Canon. She’s with Popcycle and DeeDee co designs. And you may remember she was on our show before they’ve got Teresa Delaney. She is the owner of Creative Kind. Mel dominguez and his wife, Melissa Brown. Dominguez they own a gallery here in town and then the Ampersand Gallery. Cynthia will be there to talk. She’s on Fourth Avenue. And then one of the big names bookman’s will be there so this group is going to talk to the artist, explain to them what the process is for consignment of the art. And I think it’s going to be very helpful for our artist community. That’s going to happen this Friday. It’s
the 9th. You can find out more information if you go to the creativekindshop.com under the events. It’s a Tucson event, starts about 06:00 p.m.. They will have a conversation, little roundtable. Then after that, the bar will be open and the pop up shops will be there for people to explore. It is a free event that they are asking people to RSVP through the site by buying a ticket. It’s a zero dollar ticket, but this gives them an idea of the turnout. Again, it’s going to be Friday, September 9, from 06:00 p.m. To roughly whenever you’re done there, I think the conversation will be the first hour, hour and a half, and then they’re probably going to kick everyone out around 09:00. So if you’re an artist looking to get into that market, or maybe you have a market and you’re looking for an artist, this might be a great place for you to intersect. And honestly, if you’re just a member of the public and want to check out some cool stuff, head down to the Citizen Hotel. And in honor of the Citizen
Hotel, being the host of this, we thought it would be very appropriate for us to talk to the owner, Monika Lane. We did an interview with her back in 2021, April of 21. The Citizen had not yet opened. It was scheduled to open in September. I think it opened around November or December, but it is open now. They have rooms available. The bar is open and they’re still working on their partnership with Sand Reckoner, who is going to be putting the winery in the basement. They’re building that out and still exploring that that’s going to happen, just not part of the opening yet. So I went back to this April interview we did with Monique Lane. It talks about her history in downtown Tucson, her history in general, why she chose to open her first hotel, which was the Downtown Clifton, the success of that, and how that led her to want to open up the Citizen Hotel. So again, this is our interview from April of 2021 with Monique Elaine. She’s the driving force behind the downtown Clifton and the citizen
hotel in downtown Tucson.
I’m Monique Elaine. You asked earlier if I was busy running a law practice, and I scoffed at that for a good couple of minutes because I fled the practice of law, which is how I got into real estate development. Ran right out of the frying pan and straight into the fire. So how would I describe myself today? I just describe myself as a hotel developer, real estate developer. Generally, hotels I happen to enjoy, I think they’re an interesting mix of business and real estate development. It’s hard to develop real estate without actually knowing the business or having a hand in the business. Not that it can’t be done, but why do anything easy when you don’t know how to do it with the.
Downtown Clifton, was that your first foray into that industry?
It was, and it was entirely accidental when I finally left the practical offer good in 2013, I guess it was my fourth attempt at leaving and my successful attempt. I’d had a bunch of people around me that had been for years saying I should get into real estate development and I wasn’t super keen on it up to all that time. And then finally I was casting about for what I would do with myself as a grown adult and had just a little bit of money and hit the market at the right time. And when I told my mentor law that I was leaving, he suggested the property that became the Downtown Crypton actually ended up buying that out of probate, so it never even hit the market. Was able to purchase that property and honestly wasn’t sure what I was going to do with it. The hotel came with the ten original rooms built in 1948 and then the giant empty lot next door. And we were thinking we were going to do Townhomes or some sort of multifamily or residential deal. And in the meanwhile, we looked at each other
and said, well, why don’t we just turn this into a hotel?
The space itself was originally a hotel, wasn’t it?
It was. It’s an interesting property. It has sort of a nondescript history. Armory park was one of the first historic neighborhoods, first historic districts in Tucson, and downtown Tucson particularly, so its history is fairly well documented. But for whatever reason, this family exempted itself from the historic district. There’s really no record of what it did and even the business records. I went to the Historical society when we purchased the property. Looking in the business records in the Yellow Pages for the time yields not much of anything. So as near as I could tell, the property was operated at something called the Town Hotel for about two years, from 48 to 50, and then sort of disappeared from the records. We were able to pick up what was just a charming retro boutique roadside motel on the old side. We didn’t have to do much of anything. It was gorgeous as is with its poured concrete floors with integral color and that Douglas fur, those wood beam ceilings. We just sort of
brushed them off and gave everything fresh coat of paint and some retro furniture and the rest went from there. We sort of did a thing on the Internet and then turned it into a real hotel in real life.
Yeah, I think the internet, that world wide web thing, was extremely influential. You got a national reputation.
Yeah. Like I said, that is more luck than anything. We hit everything sort of at the right time. So that was when some hotel I always say the desert Southwest was having a moment at that time may still pandemic. There’s a group of hotels called the Bunkhouse Hotels. I assume nobody’s going to be familiar with it outside of the hotel industry but El Cosmoko is one that’s probably the most famous. The Thunderbird and Marfa. Both those are in Marfa, Texas. That developer has a set of boutique hotels in the Austin Houston area as well and Austin San Antonio, forgive me, and her hotels have become very popular for this sort of stripped down desert look. Palm Springs was having a moment too, which has a very clean mid century modern look and the designer I worked with, a guy named Cliff Taylor for whom we named the hotel, actually was really sort of tapped into that feel and wanted to have Tucson sort of channel that feel itself. After all. We’re also a high desert city and the building itself
had these clean. Pretty lines so the design aesthetic of the hotel just hit at the right time I think sort of at the peak desire for that and I think turns out to be fairly classic. Classic looks. Sort of those clean lines and then trying to speak to a particular place I think makes it timeless too can be iconic for downtown Tucson in the way that truly hotel congress has been iconic. We really did follow in the footsteps of giants as far as they go. I’m just trying to do something special and beautiful and people really felt that.
Well, they felt that it worked and just a couple of years ago you.
Took the empty lot and expanded the primary thing here. I guess at that time my partner and I had split amicably so I went through the construction on my own again. Why do anything easy? So the challenge at that point in time was really how do you do something that is new construction, that speaks to that older building, new it couldn’t be recreated and you don’t want to do sort of a Disneyland facing me of it so you have to really speak to it. So what we tried to do over here was maintain the intimacy of space that our guests had liked on the smaller property. It’s one of the things that people liked. It was a small space and was easy to create community so we wanted to do that in our design. So we’ve got this interior well, it’s an outdoor courtyard but it’s interior to the property so all the new rooms face onto the courtyard. You have the privacy of your room, of course, but it really is very much a community space. We were able to incorporate some brick. Of course it was modern brick,
it wasn’t that 40s red burnt brick. We did the concrete floors. Of course you can’t do integral color with radioactive dyes anymore. So we weren’t able to do that.
These aren’t EPA warnings.
I mean, they’ve really get in the way of beautiful aesthetics.
The phrase that I’ve heard lately is modern compatible, something that is taking into the style and the feel and sort of the philosophy and the spirit, but using the modern technology and materials. So you’re not like you’re saying, trying to recreate something, you’re creating something new, but in a way that feels connected to the past.
It’s a brilliant phrase, and it’s what we tried to do here. And if I may be so bold, I feel like we were able to succeed in doing that here. One of my favorite compliments that I get from people. I don’t get it often. I get it maybe five, six times a year, somebody will walk in and say, oh, when did you renovate this old building? We wanted people to feel like this had been here, if not as long as the original building in that same era. And then, of course, the other thing that’s so sweet to me about that is this was such a neighborhood involved process. I live in Armory Park, spent a lot of time talking to our neighbors in Barrio Viejo, the hotel looks into Barrio Viejo, spend a lot of time talking with the Historic Commission in Army Park, and of course, with the city of Tucson and all of those people to really get something that feels appropriate. And one of the sweeter compliments I got when I was done with neighbors coming in and thanking us, thanking me for feeling like I’ve done
something that speaks to the place and contributes to the neighborhood in a way that is culturally historically appropriate, even though it’s new.
I think people are also thanking you because you opened up a lounge right there.
Oh, boy. Yes.
Thank you for making this a st and the local beers you serve with your nice cuisine there. So I think a lot of people don’t know about the Red Light Lounge yet. It’s sort of an up and coming thing here in Tucson.
We are in the middle of a quiet hotel in a quiet neighborhood, so we only operate from four to ten. We have a very limited, very small menu. We’ll have acoustic music, acts, play every once in a while. But our bar itself is a very small bar. Very small sort of selection, but has the feel of a neighborhood bar 100%. And that was intentional. Guests early on enjoy the neighborhood interaction. Neighbors would walk across the street and have a beer with our general manager in the dirt parking lot and whenever guests happen to be there, and we didn’t want to lose that connectivity. And the lounge has been fantastic for that, actually. So we probably see more neighborhood guests in the lounge than we do hotel guests. Bizarrely, because what we try to do for our hotel guests is push them out into the downtown community. We’ve never wanted to keep anybody on the property, even to buy our alcohol, and that’s been reciprocated nicely from our neighbors who are here. And just like you said, grateful
for the alcohol. There’s not much between Broadway and 22nd.
We’ll be right back to finish up the second half of our interview with Monique Elaine. A reminder, it was recorded in 2021. We talked about the downtown Clifton and we’ll be talking about her new project, the Citizen Hotel, which at the time of airing was still forthcoming, but has opened and will be the site of the roundtable and pop up market to help artists sell their art in our local shops. But first, I want to remind you that you’re listening to life along the Streetcar on downtown radio 99.1 FM and available for streaming on downtownradio.org.
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Well, so things are going well to downtown Clifton, and because it’s never wise to do anything easy, you’ve decided to open another location just a few blocks away in downtown. Can you tell us a little bit about the project?
Sure, yeah, why not? Compete with myself, I really do enjoy building and operating and conceptualizing hotels. How I ended up with one so close to me, not sure. But when a building speaks to you, it just happens to speak to you. And the old Tucson Citizen building really did. I’m a Tucson native, I was a history major. So the fact that it had a history as the first home of the I’m going to say the Tucson Citizen, I think it’s name was like the Arizona Daily Citizen at the time. Just its location and its materials and all of that just really sort of tugged at my heart historically. And there’s so much activity going, interesting activity, I think, going on. They’re on the corners of Broadway and Stone and Congress and Stone and up and down Stone.
Actually, let’s place this for folks. The Clifton is on Stone, but it’s about halfway, I would say between Broadway and five Points.
So the Clifton is that’s the way to describe it’s? About halfway between Broadway and Five Points. That’s perfect. Okay, the second project, the Citizen, is at 82 south Stone, so that’s a little bit north of the cathedral. We’re actually directly north of the parking garage and immediately next door to health on Broadway.
And I read an article about this and this is what really prompted the call, because this is not your typical I think of like a boutique hotel, I think of small rooms, but these are not small rooms.
Well, we’re not trying to do small rooms, but damn, the competitors don’t keep up with you. Every time I think I’ve done something nice like 500 square foot rooms, which we’re doing here, just ten of them, somebody comes along and says, oh, that’s the new industry average. I’m like, Damn it, I thought I was doing something special room for yeah, and it feels that way, so it really does. It feels larger than your typical hotel room. There’s walk in bathroom suite in those with walk in closets and soaking tubs and city views. The windows are huge. Huge. They’re very tall windows. The ceilings are very tall. Of course, in classic sense, it varies from room to room because it’s a historic building. And I know that doesn’t quite make sense, but where your real ceilings are and where your drop ceilings are and all that sort of stuff can be a surprise when you’re doing an adaptive reuse in an old building. So on average, our ceilings are about ten to 12ft, and then when you go upstairs, they get
as high as twelve to 14ft. I’m so excited that Sand Reckoner Wines is putting their cellar in the basement. They’ll be barrel aging, they’ll be bottling, they’ll be doing their tasting room and they’ll be shipping out of that space and doing barrel tastings and tours and wine programming and all that sort of stuff, since they’re based out of Wilcox and there’s that high open desert in the Wilcox growing area. And same with Sonoida, what we want to do design wise in the hotel is really speak to that experience to sort of bring not just the taste of Arizona wines, but also the feel of being out in the Vineyard down to downtown. So we wanted the rooms to feel big, like the big open skies in that area, and to feel bright and sunny and to use sort of the natural materials, the organic materials that we do. So what we were trying to do with Sand Reckoner being in the basement is really speak to the terroir of the Wilcox and Sonoida growing areas in the same way that their wines do. So design
wise, we wanted to have that feel of big open desert skies and the dusty hues, natural wood materials, dusty greens. Some of the quartzite that’s out there will have those accents, natural stone accents, quartzlight, sandstone. Use all of those materials. The natural materials that give their wines, we wanted to use to give our hotel character as well. So the tool work in harmony in that way. So I’m really pleased with the size of the room, not just because they’ll be big, but because it speaks to the whole experience we’re trying to provide.
What’s your timeline for the renovation and opening? Do you have something slated?
No, we’re targeting a soft open around July 1, and we’ll use that time to walk, press through, to walk invited guests, members of the community, even though hopefully by that time almost everybody will have two shots in their arms. We want to be sensitive to opening a hotel during this time, so be sure to do that in a carefully controlled way. During the summer, we start taking reservations for room nights after August 6, and then hopefully we can have a grand opening on October 16. We’re planning to kick that off with what we hope will become an annual wine event. We’d close off the street immediately to the south of us. We’d have some wine education and tastings and music and all those sorts of things.
And as you do, you pay homage to the history. And the new hotel is the Citizen after the original use of that building?
Yeah, that’s exactly what it is. It’s formerly the Citizen Hotel, Tucson. But we just call it The Citizen. Keep your eyes peeled for the opening and I can’t wait to have you down and have a glass of wine.
Oh, I have been down and had a glass of wine. In fact, I’ve had a couple of delicious cocktails in their bar. That was our interview from 2021, April 21 with Monique Lane. She is the founder and creator of the Downtown Clifton, as well as the Citizen Hotel. Of course, during that interview that was an effort forthcoming, but the Citizen Hotel is open. They have guests and a nice bar and working out the basement arrangement with Sand Reckoner Wine. We wanted to feature that story because the Citizen Hotel happens to be the site of this Friday’s roundtable discussion and pop up shop helping artists sell their work with the help of our local shopkeepers coming together and giving them some guidance on that, it’s going to happen this Friday. The 9th starts at 06:00 p.m.. Conversation lasts about the first hour, hour and a half, and then the bar will be open and there’ll be a pop up market. So you can visit some of these artists. Well, my name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Lifelong Streetcar
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Well, thanks for joining us for episode 216, I hope to see you Friday at the Citizen Hotel for the artist roundtable on Art Consignments, as well as the pop up market in the fabulous new downtown hotel created by Monique Elaine. And hope you enjoyed our interview with her from 2021, talking about the inspiration of her downtown hotel empire. Well, next week we’ve got Jessica Johnson. She and her business partner, Jennifer Wong have created a new program in Tucson called Cheers to Tucson. And it is a fundraising effort to support members of our community in need and it taps into our fabulous restaurant scene and as a collaboration with the Tucson Food Project. So I hope you will tune in next Sunday for that. As always, if you have any topics for us to share, why don’t you just hit us up on our email firstname.lastname@example.org or Facebook, instagram, tag us and something. We’d love to share it. Well, the Citizen Hotel is a partnership with the Wine, so we thought we’d leave you a little
music today from Brian Thomas Parker, his song BlackBerry Wine from 2017. Hope you enjoy it. Have a great week and tune in next Sunday for more life along the streetcar.