Architecture and Design

Here's Your Chance to Get Inside the Westward Ho

The Ho's not going anywhere.
The Ho's not going anywhere. Robrt L. Pela
Those of us who have “Finally get inside the Westward Ho” scrawled onto our bucket lists are in luck. Cathedral Development Group, a Rhode Island-based Real Estate company specializing in historic preservation and management of affordable housing developments, has come to our rescue. For a couple of hours, anyway.

Cathedral, which recently completed a multimillion-dollar facelift on the 1928 landmark, will host a grand-reopening party at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, April 19, to show off its renovations to the much-loved building, which is typically closed to the public.

Built in 1928 at 618 North Central Avenue, the 16-story Westward Ho was a luxury hotel until 1980, when it was renovated into a subsidized housing complex for the elderly and mobility-impaired. It now provides homes to about 300 residents. Locals have long had a tough time getting past the security desk to ogle the gorgeous interior vestibules and lobby, with their ornate tile floors and plaster ceilings.

Cathedral’s $17 million renovations have enhanced energy and water efficiency features of the Ho’s apartments, as well as replacing old cabinets, floors, and fixtures. Plumbing has been upgraded for the first time since 1928, and the elevators have been restored. Additional improvements to the property include a renovation of the rear courtyard, updated heating and cooling systems, new windows, restoration of the long-dead courtyard fountain, and a remodel of the first floor commercial space, home to Arizona State University’s new social and health services program, which will benefit the building’s residents with various health-care necessities.

click to enlarge Inside the Westward Ho. - ROBRT L. PELA
Inside the Westward Ho.
Robrt L. Pela
Locals concerned that ASU plans to gobble up the Ho, as it has with so many other downtown buildings, needn’t worry.

“We have a lease with ASU for 15,000 square feet of usage,” says Jonathan Bentz, Cathedral’s vice president of acquisitions and development. “They have no plans to increase their physical footprint at the facility, where they’ll hold classes and meetings, and also provide services like blood pressure checks and basic nursing.”

The building is safe from ASU’s further interests for nearly another two decades, at least: According to Bentz, the Ho’s contract with Housing and Urban Development, which protects its low-income-housing status, doesn’t expire until 2035.

And forget about the Ho’s colossal antenna being struck by lightning. Part of Cathedral’s new renovations included a storm protection system that will divert lightning up and away from the building, rather than through it. The Ho’s not going anywhere, and Wednesday’s 10 a.m. event will provide a rare, sanctioned opportunity for longtime fans and Ho-curious locals to check out this beautiful old building.
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Robrt L. Pela has been a weekly contributor to Phoenix New Times since 1991, primarily as a cultural critic. His radio essays air on National Public Radio affiliate KJZZ's Morning Edition.
Contact: Robrt L. Pela