Metro Light Rail.Photos Greater Phoenix CVB

If you think you know Phoenix, you are in for a surprise. New construction and massive renovations are transforming the city.

The most impactful change will be the METRO light-rail system that is set to open on December 27. The initial 32-kilometre line will link Phoenix to the neighbouring communities of Tempe and Mesa, and include stops at attractions like Phoenix Art Museum, the Heard Museum, Chase Field and US Airways Center. The service is scheduled to run 18 to 20 hours a day, seven days a week and have a capacity of 15,000 people per hour.

Future transit plans include a $1.1 billion, driverless “people mover” that will transport light-rail passengers to Sky Harbor from the 44th Street and Washington stop beginning 2013. Until then, riders can take a shuttle from that stop to the airport. All told, about 65 kilometres of extensions to METRO Light Rail will be phased in during the life of the project’s 20-year plan, ending in 2025.

Sheraton Phoenix Downtown.Greater Phoenix CVBSpeaking of new, the new Sheraton Phoenix Downtown is the largest hotel in Arizona and the first new hotel built in downtown Phoenix since 1976.

“The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown is a new flagship hotel for Sheraton and is illustrative of the brand’s aggressive growth plan, which includes an investment of $2.3 billion in new hotel openings in North America,” said Starwood CEO Frits van Paasschen. “We have a long, successful history in Phoenix with an equally bright future that includes an additional six new hotels opening soon.”

Starwood’s six new hotels in development include a Westin, an Element and four AloftSM hotels.
The 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown features the signature Sheraton Sweet SleeperSM Bed and high-quality, in-room programming through its Scene@Sheraton entertainment, which includes sneak previews and premier sports programming viewed on wall-mounted flat screen HDTVs.

Phoenix Convention CenterGreater Phoenix CVBAnd then there is the Phoenix Convention Center one block from the Sheraton. It is scheduled to open January 1, 2009 after a five-year, US $600 million expansion. The three-building campus boasts nearly 82,800 square metres of exhibition and meeting space. Its Grand Canyon-inspired environs include three ballrooms with cutting-edge audio and video technology, US $3.2 million worth of public art, and ecologically friendly features like solar panels and a water-harvesting garden. User-friendly features include exhibit halls with pre-scored floors, temperature-controlled loading bays, outdoor meeting spaces, and a food court with five themed eateries.