La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans breaks ground with Montage International and Pendry Hotels developers for La Quinta's Silverrock Resort development project, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun

La Quinta Mayor Linda Evans breaks ground with Montage International and Pendry Hotels developers for La Quinta's Silverrock Resort development project, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun

La Quinta crossed a milestone more than 15 years in the making Monday morning with a groundbreaking ceremony at SilverRock, marking the start of development on a luxury resort that brings the Montage brand to the Coachella Valley.

More than 100 people sat along the 18th fairway of the existing golf course, which will remain part of the resort,  – a prime view of the Santa Rosa Mountains before them – for the ceremony, including city staff, all current council members and former members Terry Henderson and Lee Osborne, as well as past Mayor Don Adolph.

“I am over the top excited to have today happen,” Mayor Linda Evans said.

The groundbreaking marks a major step forward in the development of a project that has seen years of delays, due to the Great Recession followed by loss of redevelopment funds and the need to bring in a new developer, which the council did in November 2014 with approval of a contract with The Robert Green Co.

The project includes two luxury hotels which are scheduled to open simultaneously in October 2019.

READ MORE: Montage ties name to resort

With the groundbreaking comes the closure of the back nine holes of the Arnold Palmer-designed golf course to begin realignment of three holes to make room for the Montage La Quinta 140-room “five-star” quality hotel.

The second hotel is a 200-room Pendry – Montage’s newest brand.

“It’s the first opportunity to build a Montage and a Pendry side-by-side and it took a very unique location … to do that,” said Alan Fuerstman, Montage founder, chairman and CEO.

“But the appeal of this market and this destination for both brands is so strong, it was a logical conclusion” to bring both, said Fuerstman, whose hospitality career started in Rancho Mirage.

Pendry is a new brand for the Irvine-based Montage International with just two other hotels open – in San Diego and Baltimore.

Fuerstman's son, Michael, heads the Pendry brand, and described it as “ultra-luxury” for the younger, active but well-traveled customer.

Construction will begin from this site for La Quinta's Silverrock Resort development project, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

Construction will begin from this site for La Quinta's Silverrock Resort development project, Monday, May 1, 2017. (Photo: Zoe Meyers/The Desert Sun)

The golf course realignment will start soon, said John Gamlin, of La Quinta, who has been with the project since the beginning and will be the local face for Green throughout development. 

The improvements must be completed and the course fully reopened by Nov. 1, according to the agreement with the city. The front nine holes will remain open throughout the realignment.

The mass grading for the hotels, conference center and other amenities is expected to start in the fall, followed by the building of the infrastructure, Gamlin said.

GETTING OUT: La Quinta getting out of golf business

The city’s redevelopment agency purchased the then-vacant SilverRock land in 2002 with a vision for a luxury resort with hotels, two 18-hole golf courses and more. The existing golf course opened in 2005.

La Quinta views the development as a major source of revenue that will help secure the city’s financial future, through hotel, property and sales taxes. The city has projected revenue from SilverRock will be well above $50 million in the first 15 years, even with a bed tax sharing agreement with the developer. To date, the city has seen about $40,000 developer impact fees.

Rosemary Genovese, mother of the late Tom Genovese, who was city manager when SilverRock was conceived, was also present. Genovese died while hiking in 2011.

“I think it’s going to be beautiful,” she said. “Very different from the original but … I think it will be a wonderful project for our city. I just wish Tom and Arnie (Palmer) could have been here.”

Desert Sun reporter Sherry Barkas covers the cities of La Quinta, Indian Wells, Rancho Mirage and Palm Desert. She can be reached at sherry.barkas@thedesertsun.com or (760) 778-4694. Follow her on Twitter @TDSsherry