How Coachella Is Fueling a Building Boom in Palm Springs

Palm Springs -Coachella-H 2016
Courtesy of Mark Davidson

The annual music festival in April is driving entertainment industry demand in the desert oasis, which offers modern homes by prized architects for a fraction of the L.A. price.

This story first appeared in the April 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

Chris Pardo is not a performer, but nearly every one of the designer's projects is touched by the Palm Springs music scene. Witness the new 32-room boutique hotel Arrive, centered on a courtyard outfitted for DJs. Pardo also has completed designs for Virgin Hotel, set to open in 2018; he likens the 144-room Richard Branson-owned property to the ultimate box seat for viewing live music. "The cool thing about it is why Virgin chose this site: It overlooks the new open land that is planned to be a cool events center with stages and live music," he says, referencing a 50,000-square-foot park in Palm Springs that will include a stage with a capacity of 3,000.

Then there's The Orchard, a compound designed for Skip Paige, COO of Coachella promoter Goldenvoice. The five-acre enclave includes 11 3,500-square-foot homes, each on a 20,000-square-foot plot with a fire pit, pool and desert trails. "I designed them to be U-shaped so the backyards become a sort of amphitheater for live performances," says Pardo.

"The two driving forces here are Modernism Week and Coachella," says Keith Markovitz at HK Lane/Christie's International Real Estate. "Suddenly I'm getting a ton of people from L.A. who are in the music and fashion industries coming to see our homes." Markovitz's listings include the striking John Lautner-designed Elrod House, where scenes for Diamonds Are Forever were filmed in 1971. "At $10 million, this house is the equivalent of a $30 million or $40 million home if it were in L.A."

An Alta Verde Escena home.

Andrew Adler, CEO of Century City-based Alta Verde Group, seconds that notion. The developer of two Palm Springs communities with homes designed by L.A.-based architect Anthony Poon (Chaya, Din Tai Fung and Rick Caruso are among past clients) says a $2.5 million house in his Linea community "resembles a $15 million Hollywood Hills home." Adler's other community, Escena (a 20-minute drive from Coachella), includes 132 homes. When they hit the market in 2013, they went in the high-$400,000s; now they sell for nearly twice that amount. Overall, the median home price in Palm Springs has risen 30 percent since 2013, according to Trulia. During the past year, the city's home sales have increased by more than 11 percent, according to CoreLogic.

The rental market also is riding the Coachella wave. For the past two years, Soho House has staged a buyout of the 39-acre Merv Griffin Estate (a block south of the festival site), hosting events for the likes of Coach that draw such stars as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Dylan Penn, Zoe Kravitz and Katy Perry. The 13- bedroom compound usually rents for $5,000 to $6,000 a night, says property manager William Sayegh; during Coachella, the price explodes to "something astronomical," he adds.

"Buyers coming from major cities no longer want Rancho Mirage country-club living," says Adler of homes like this in his Linea community. "They want Palm Springs' history, cool stores and its urban downtown that is revitalizing fast."

Not that every corner of the desert sees Coachella as a draw. At the Palm Desert resort community Bighorn, a 15-mile distance from the festival is the appeal: "The big music stars call every year and want to rent a home here," says Lorna Ball, broker associate at Bighorn Properties, whose listings include Jerry Weintraub's luxurious modern desert home. "One year we did have someone stay, but it wouldn't happen again. People here appreciate what Coachella has brought to the valley — and they're really happy it's not in their backyard."

The newly opened hotel Arrive offers live music events in partnership with the Knitting Factory.