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Palm Springs Is in Economic Bloom Again

PALM SPRINGS, Calif. ( MainStreet) -- California's desert communities have been among the hardest hit in the nation with declining real estate prices and foreclosures, and it's been startling to once buoyant communities such as Palm Springs. Long a favored escape for Hollywood luminaries and retired CEOs, the city's downtown is stained by a mall that's been mostly shuttered for more than a decade and empty storefronts extending from border to border.

But there seems to be light at the end of the tunnel -- a surge in tourism; tax revenue from hotel stays up 17.7% from 2010 to 2011; and new airline routes by Virgin America connecting the city with New York and San Francisco.

The Saguaro Palm Springs is a former Holiday Inn now ablaze in colorful southwestern colors and a boutique vibe that's like a hipster tribute to Georgia O'Keefe.

High season in Palm Springs seems to get longer with each passing year, beginning with this month's Palm Springs International Film Festival (this year attracting the likes of Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie and George Clooney). In February, the city hosts its annual Modernism Week, celebrating the wondrous architecture of the desert with works by Albert Frey, A. Quincy Jones and William F. Cody. And in April there's the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival, one of the biggest and most profitable outdoor concerts in the country. This year it extends over two weekends this year from April 13-22 and brings performances by Radiohead, Florence + the Machine and David Guetta.

Bohemian spirits in search of eternal sunshine and a less hurried urban life have always been at the root of desert migration, and those dreaming of a different life fuel many of the city's burgeoning businesses -- quirky cantinas, mid-century antique shops, lively bars and restaurants that may or may not last even a season. Cheeky's Restaurant has proven one of the city's tastier success stories and become an eatery known for innovative breakfasts and feel-good foodie lunches. Last year, the restaurant added a pizza eatery called Birba next door, and this year the company has expanded to include the Alcazar Hotel.

Alcazar Hotel sits just west of the city's downtown stretch, on the edge of the Palm Springs design district amid stylish antique stores, clothiers and art galleries. Once known as the Peppertree Hotel, the new Alcazar shows off an extensive remodel, including arty iron gates and terra cotta-topped one- and two-story bungalows. There's a single-room reception with friendly service ready to explain how to access the property's two affiliated eateries. A pool at the center of the property takes full advantage of a mountainous skyline, although there's a bit of traffic noise that just a little music could camouflage. Most of the 34 rooms are spare, all-white spaces where premium linens and artisanal bath products put a lux spin of the usual boutique hotel amenities.

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