photo by Stephen Denton

Man with the Plans

Written by Leah LeMoine Category: People Issue: December 2017
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After developing a couple of Colorado towns – ever hear of Telluride? – real estate visionary Ron Allred sets his sights on Arizona’s historical inns.

Long before Ron Allred purchased The Hermosa Inn in 2015, he stalked the property like a professional thief casing the joint. He paced the entrance and hallways of Lon’s, the Paradise Valley resort’s signature restaurant, jotting notes for improvements on a pad with a pencil. He peered over patio walls and scoped out square footage of underutilized space. He whipped out a tape measure in common areas, drawing raised eyebrows and bewildered whispers from hotel staff.

“I just took one look at it and I knew, ‘I gotta figure out who the hell owns this and get it from them,’” Allred says. His son introduced him to the owners at the time, Fred and Jennifer Unger. “Ron stalked the Ungers for four years trying to buy it,” Allred’s wife Joyce says. “But I got it,” Allred says, mischief lighting up his brown eyes.

There’s not much Allred wants that he doesn’t eventually get. In his more than 40 years in real estate development, Allred has transformed downtrodden towns into destinations, saved a film festival and resuscitated a small-town bank. Instead of retiring along with peers a decade ago, the spirited 77-year-old started collecting historical Southwestern inns like other folks collect knickknacks.

It’s difficult to begrudge him his success. The developer was born in an actual log cabin and spent the first six years of his life in Ogden, Utah, raised by his grandparents while his father served in the U.S. Navy during World War II. His mother died of complications from childbirth just days after he was born. When his father returned home from the Pacific in 1945, he remarried and moved Allred to Grand Junction, Colorado. After high school, Allred took a night job at a Wonder Bread factory in Omaha, Nebraska, while he studied dentistry at Creighton University. “That was the most important job of my life, because otherwise I couldn’t go to college,” he says. “My parents would have helped me if they could... It didn’t matter to me – I was able to work, so that’s all I needed.”

That work ethic served him well as he established a dental practice in Colorado Springs to provide for his first wife and their five children. Allred discovered his preternatural skill for real estate when he and the 14 dentists in the practice started an investment group. After losing money with a stockbroker, they ventured into real estate.

Ron and Joyce Allred celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year. Photo courtesy Ron Allred
Ron and Joyce Allred celebrated their 40th wedding anniversary this year. Photo courtesy Ron Allred

“Everybody had the job of finding a good real estate investment,” Allred says. “I just stumbled onto this one thing [a 35-acre agricultural parcel]... We bought it, and within two months we sold it for 100 percent profit. After losing and losing and losing, this seemed really pretty good.”

After a few more successful deals, Allred stopped practicing dentistry and devoted himself full-time to real estate, leading the dental group’s investments for three years before striking out on his own. “His vision – what he could see – was beyond what I was looking at, and our other partners, too,” says Ock Peterson, a dentist from the practice and a longtime friend and business partner.

That vision led him to develop two ski towns in Colorado: Avon, a ranching community west of Vail, and, most famously, Telluride, the mining town turned luxury ski destination tucked in a box canyon in southwest Colorado that was on the brink of financial ruin when Allred and Joyce, his second wife, arrived in 1978.

“There is one paved street in town. Half of Main Street is boarded up. There is not one house in town that is fixed up – not one,” Joyce says of her first impression of the town. “When I called for a room at the Sheridan Hotel, they asked if I wanted a bathroom. So that gives a little [idea] of what Telluride was when we moved there.”

Allred promised Joyce it would take five years to update the town’s ski facilities, build a world-class resort, construct its now-signature gondola and develop infrastructure to support growth, despite opposition from the development-wary trust fund hippies who had set up camp there. In fact, it took decades, with flirtations with failure including Telluride’s bank nearly folding.

In the case of Avon years before, Allred’s bank in Portland, Oregon, did actually fold. In a feat of jaw-dropping ingenuity, he paid back a multimillion-dollar loan in 60 days by selling lots in a “two for one” sale modeled after an advertisement he saw for Macy’s annual “white sale” on linens and towels. “It was a miracle. We were either bankrupt or it worked,” Joyce says. “I think he was born with a golden star above his head, I do.”

After Allred and his business partner and childhood best friend Jim Wells sold their Telluride ownership to Sony scion Joe Morita in 1999, Allred worked with the resort for five more years, splitting his time between Telluride and Phoenix. “We love Arizona,” Allred says. “The history and the Southwest architecture really get us excited.”

In 1994 Allred and partners purchased Cave Creek’s Rancho Mañana Golf Club and Resort and revamped it. They did the same with Tubac Golf Resort & Spa in 2002, and The Hermosa Inn in 2015. He’s looking at properties in Sedona and Tucson, with plans to scout historical hotels in Bisbee and construct a brand-new one in Cave Creek soon. “We love Cave Creek because it’s cowboy and it’s funky,” Allred says.

The Allreds summer in Telluride and winter in Phoenix and love spending time with their combined seven children, 22 grandchildren and 10 great-grandchildren at their hacienda-style home in the Biltmore Estates. They play golf and sup with friends at Lon’s, Durant’s and Tomaso’s. “Other than when he’s pacing off some business that he wants, we’re like Siamese twins,” Joyce says. “We do everything together.”

Retirement isn’t part of the plan. “He’ll never retire,” Wells says of his “generous” and “cunningly involving” friend. “He loves to do deals. And he loves to do deals where he can see a vision for something that is a lot better than is there. And if he gets involved, he’ll make it successful, no matter what.”

Joyce “wasn’t excited about doing the Hermosa. She thought I should retire,” Allred says. “Well, most people your age do retire,” she says. “I just don’t see wasting all that time before you own something. What if you don’t get it?”

Allred raises his eyebrows, that impish twinkle returning to his eyes. “But I always get ‘em. Which one have I not got?”

Allred’s Historical Hotel Triple Crown
Ron Allred’s quaint Arizona real estate triumvirate:

Rancho Mañana Golf Club and Resort
After redoing the golf course and opening Tonto Bar & Grill, Allred plans to build a chapel on the World War II-era guest ranch in Cave Creek.

Tubac Golf Resort & Spa
The Allreds spiffed up the historical Otero ranch in Southern Arizona, established in 1752, by adding nine holes and a clubhouse to the golf course, 48 rooms (for a total of 98), a chapel, a banquet facility, a high-volume kitchen and a high-end spa designed by Joyce Allred.

The Hermosa Inn
This February, the Hermosa’s $5.5 million renovation concluded. The resort now boasts 10 deluxe hideaway casitas (for a total of 43), the renovation of 12 historic rancho casitas and an expansion of Lon’s Last Drop bar and patio, named for the Paradise Valley inn’s original inhabitant, cowboy artist Lon Megargee.