The original Alhambra Palace in Granada, Andalusia, Spain, featured marble pools, fountains, a whispering gallery and labyrinth, vaulted sepulchers and arabesques, and served as the royal court of Ferdinand and Isabella where Christopher Columbus received a royal endorsement for his expedition to the New World.

The former Alhambra Hotel in downtown Mesa may not be as opulent as its historic namesake, but developers converting the building into a residence for Benedictine University at Mesa students hope it will be something close.

In January, BenU at Mesa students seeking housing options close to campus will have access to single or double suites in the former Alhambra Hotel offering amenities such as study areas, lounges, a café, kitchens, laundry and exercise rooms, an outdoor commons area, patio space and parking.

“This is an amazing development for Benedictine University at Mesa, our students and the downtown Mesa area,” said Charlie Gregory, BenU at Mesa campus executive officer. “Students can bike or take the light rail to campus. It really is an ideal location for students on many fronts. The location is a historical site much like Gillett Hall, so the community seems to be pleased we are keeping some of the old Alhambra Hotel history alive.”

Rendering of the former Alhambra Hotel in downtown Mesa that is scheduled to open in January as student housing for Benedictine University at Mesa.

The future student residence is located at 43 S. MacDonald in downtown Mesa and is owned by Venue Projects and Community Development Partners. Students, University representatives and city of Mesa officials are excited about its location in the heart of downtown Mesa near the Mesa Arts Center and about a mile from BenU at Mesa’s main campus building at 225 E. Main St.

“Venue Projects was engaged with the city in redevelopment discussions and was looking for the right opportunity to be a part of the revitalization of downtown Mesa,” said Kevin Broeckling, associate vice president for University Services and Student Life at Benedictine University at Mesa. “When the group walked the building (Alhambra), they felt the setup was perfect for student housing and learned through networking and community partners that the University was in the midst of exploring the expansion of housing for the Mesa campus.”

The $3.5 million renovation will initially accommodate 53 students. A second phase buildout will create space for roughly 10 more.

“It’s rare to have an opportunity where it’s such a win-win for everyone impacted,” said Lorenzo Perez, an owner at Venue Projects, the agency developing the site. “BenU benefits from a facility to support its continued growth, the city of Mesa benefits by preserving a historic structure, and the downtown businesses will benefit by bringing more energy and new life to the downtown area. We’re excited and proud to be partners with the University and downtown Mesa.”

Currently, 17 BenU at Mesa students are housed in the Phoenix Marriott Mesa on Centennial Way and a number of other students are residing in and around Mesa in apartments. There also will be up to 36 parking spaces available for BenU student use.

City of Mesa officials praised the joint endeavor by Benedictine and the developers.

“I can’t think of a better use for the historic Alhambra Hotel,” Mayor John Giles said. “Congratulations to Benedictine University and welcome to all of the students who will be living in the heart of downtown Mesa.”

A longtime supporter of Benedictine’s presence in Mesa reinforced Giles’ opinion.

“This is a great step for Benedictine University at Mesa to take in order to further solidify their standing in downtown Mesa,” said District 4 Councilmember Chris Glover. “They are an important partner in our community and have become a vital member of the downtown Mesa core.”

Benedictine will be leasing the property from the developers and soon expects to start reviewing student housing applications for the location.