Historic hotel transformed into residence hall opens to BenU at Mesa students

February 8, 2017

Mesa, Ariz. ~ Benedictine University at Mesa officially opened the doors to its first residence hall on Tuesday, and a boost to downtown Mesa and the former Alhambra Hotel located at 43 S. Macdonald Street.

Nearly 100 people attended the dedication and ribbon-cutting, including students, faculty, staff, city officials, property developers and members of the general public.

“We took a beautiful landmark that is at the heart of downtown Mesa and made a great thing happen,” said University President Michael S. Brophy, Ph.D., M.F.A.

The $3.3 million renovation project turned what was once a transient hotel into single- and double-room suites with such amenities as study areas, lounges, a café, kitchen, and laundry rooms, an outdoor commons area, patio space and parking. The renovated facility can house 53 students. 

“You can tell this is not a typical institution of higher education,” said Mesa Mayor John Giles. “Benedictine is very special. What a great addition to downtown Mesa,” he added. “To have 24/7, these vibrant, great students who are going to be a part of this neighborhood, who are going to keep businesses alive and attract a lot of exciting activity to the downtown area ... this is the start of a very healthy community housing development in our downtown. That’s worthy of our celebration.”

“If you know anything about Benedictine, history is important to us,” said Charlie Gregory, campus executive officer at BenU at Mesa. “Community is everything, and we are proud to be a part of this community.”

Students expressed excitement about this new campus experience.

“The facility is amazing,” said Ana Gonzalez, a junior Management and Organizational Behavior major from Queen Creek, Ariz., who was named the Alhambra Residence Hall’s first resident assistant.

“I couldn’t ask for more,” she added. “Everything is new. Students love the fact we are in Mesa, and that we are so close to school and all of the restaurants and businesses. We are really thankful that they chose this location.”

The Alhambra opened as the Pioneer Hotel in 1894. Once among Mesa’s most posh lodging options, the Alhambra was devastated by fire in 1921. Although it endured while other local hotels were shuttered, torn down or redeveloped, the building fell into neglect and eventually served as a transitional-living facility and residential hotel.

Phoenix-based developer Venue Projects and California-based Community Development Partners bought the building for about $1 million in August. Shortly thereafter, Perez reached out to BenU at Mesa officials, who were seeking a residential facility for students and agreed to lease the property.

Prior to the renovation project, student housing was made available through an agreement with the Phoenix Marriott Mesa.

The new residence hall is located near the Mesa Arts Center and about a mile from BenU at Mesa’s main campus building at 225 E. Main St. In a private ceremony in January, the building was blessed by Fr. James Aboyi, V.C., a parochial vicar at the Holy Cross Parish in Mesa who serves as BenU at Mesa’s chaplain.

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Benedictine University is located in Lisle, Illinois, just 25 miles west of Chicago, and has branch campuses in Springfield, Illinois, and Mesa, Arizona. Founded as a Catholic university in 1887, Benedictine enrolls nearly 9,000 students in 56 undergraduate and 20 graduate programs. Forbes magazine named Benedictine among "America's Top Colleges" for the sixth consecutive year in 2016. A 2016 PayScale Inc. report ranked BenU one of the top 10 colleges in Illinois for return on investment and in the top 20 percent nationally. Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org). For more information, contact (630) 829-6300, admissions@ben.edu or visit ben.edu.

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Ryan Blackburn
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(630) 829-6070
rblackburn@ben.edu