On Friday, September 17 at 8:00 a.m., ASU and Omni held their official groundbreaking ceremony for the Omni Hotel & Conference Center that is coming out of the ground at the SE corner of Mill and University. As one would expect, the event started with gracious and informative remarks and was followed by photos and the shoveling of dirt. All the usual folks were there, City of Tempe staff, elected officials, leadership from ASU and community partner groups like our Chamber and Tourism teams. It felt normal – ish. Actually, given the last eighteen months, it honestly felt a bit intimidating to be around all of my colleagues.
How many of us have moments post-pandemic when we feel almost like we are being reintroduced to society?
We have been hidden behind zooms for so long that it’s as if we are awkward teenagers, who just might say something ridiculously stupid at any moment. Simultaneously, I feel intensely grateful for the reconnection to other humans. I have to hold back my excitement so that I don’t appear crazed. I want to hug everyone, hear about their kids’ sports accomplishments and get up to speed on their completed home projects. I stand on that dirt lot and become acutely aware of how much I crave connection.
In that moment, my vision starts darting around and soaking in the transforming landscape. I can see the Westin straight ahead, Oliv just to our North, and Mirabella next door. I never cease to be awed by my affection for this place, when I find myself breathing it all in. I have to believe that others share my tangled up sense of intimidation meets anticipation and it feels like such an honor to do work that creates opportunities for us come back together. Whether we are eager to exchange project ideas in person rather than through Teams, or excited to go on a date and stroll down Mill Avenue, everyone I know is craving connection. And every day Downtown Tempe is the backdrop for incredible connections, not to sound like an old newspaper dating ad.
The Omni should have doors open in 18 months and we will likely be meeting again to celebrate that milestone. By then, hopefully we won’t feel quite as teenage-awkward, but I will be just as grateful. What is literally “on the rise” this morning is a 330 key hotel, but more than that, our spirits are on the rise and our confidence is returning.
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