Clif Taylor is Tucson through-and-through. For starters, he was born and raised here, and one of his first concerts was actually an Elvis show at the TCC. Thanks to an interest he shared with his father growing up, he’s on a first-name basis with some of Mexico’s most famous bullfighters and, whether you know it or not, Taylor has put his own personal touch all over downtown Tucson as a designer for businesses like Hotel Congress and Maynard’s Market. Since he’s essentially been brought up 100 percent Sonoran, his style absolute reeks of that dusty, funky, kind-of-run-down-but-loved-to-death feel that typifies this city, especially in the way it seems to impress those visiting from out of town.
Perfect, then, that Taylor’s most recent project caters directly to that clientele—a type that Taylor himself identifies as “the adventurous traveler”. The Downtown Clifton at 16th St. and Stone Ave.—set to hold a public soft-opening event on the evening of March 28th—is a single-story ten-room motel that is tucked unassumingly onto a less-than-half-an-acre lot on the eastern edge of the Barrio Viejo neighborhood. Owners Phil Lipman and Moniqua Lane purchased the property from a private owner for $550k in October of 2013 and, for several months, they weren’t quite sure what to do with it.
Lipman says that, since there is a major housing shortage in downtown and South Tucson, his initial idea was to demolish the current building—a rather plain brick structure which had a former life as assisted housing—and install a much denser three-to-four story apartment complex on the site. But when the neighborhood reacted negatively late last year to a proposal to demolish the Downtown Motor Lodge with intentions of building something similar in scale to what Lipman and Lane had planned just two blocks north of the Clifton, the business partners had a change of heart. “We decided it would probably be better, rather than knock it down, to instead do something cool with the original building,” says Lipman. And, with an eye on the apparent interests of the other residents of Barrio Viejo, Tucson’s newest retro-chic motel was born.
Lane says that when she and Lipman first purchased the property, both of them wanted to stay clear of the hotel business. But after deciding to keep the original structure intact —and it was apparently in alarmingly good shape—the idea of getting into hospitality in downtown Tucson simply started to grow on them. When Taylor expressed an interest in taking charge of the project’s over all aesthetic, the two co-owners quickly gave him carte blanche to make the property into a vision all his own. The result, says Lane, “captures that real dusty-dirty feel” of the city without sacrificing on comfort.
Each room of the “twisted mid-century bunkhouse” is specially curated with “a million little weird details,” according to Taylor, including a great deal of art from his personal collection, swag lamps, custom-made platform beds, and even a mini-fridge, AC split, and flat screen TV for that all-essential touch of today required by the average modern tourist. The original colored concrete floors of the building were exposed in each room, the bathroom tiles and rafter ceilings preserved, and a number of brick planters, a fresh coat of paint inside-and-out, and a large full-color mural by local artist Danny Martin were added to give the property a certain border-town charm. Rooms at the Clifton will start at around $100 per night, though since there are only ten, chances are good that the place will fill up fairly quickly, especially during the busy season.
One more touch that promises to give the Downtown Clifton a slight advantage over would-be competitors in the area is the presence of a live-in manager and concierge in Liz Fogel. Fogel is also a Tucson native, though she spent a short spell in Austin, and the fact that she will be on the hotel grounds and in downtown in general full-time means guests can make use of her knowledge of the area and enjoy a completely customized downtown experience which caters to their specific tastes. “It’s like the tour of downtown Tucson that you would give your family if you were able to get off work,” says Lane. No doubt many locals will appreciate that sentiment—after all, that’s one less thing to worry about when the in-laws come to town.
The Downtown Clifton is located at 485 S. Stone Ave. More info on the hotel, booking rooms, and upcoming events can be found at TheDowntownClifton.com