Once upon a time, the Biltmore Hotel catered to famous Hollywood actors such as the Rat Pack—and a hotel napkin with Frank Sinatra's autograph now sells for upwards of $600. Today, developers of the Biltmore Colony in Palm Springs, Calif., say the mix of single-family and multifamily housing will preserve the legendary hotel's look and luxury.

Nexus Residential Communities of Santa Ana, Calif., took over the blighted property two years ago, drafting plans that would turn the legend-turned-eyesore into 133 condominiums and 19 single-family homes with high-end amenities.

"The hotel had been abandoned for 22 years and had a huge rat infestation," says Garth Erdossy, Nexus president and CEO. "In the 1980s, the city had recorded demolition orders against the site."

Although the 47-year-old hotel was torn down, Erdossy says he wanted its legend to remain. He hired Dallas-based Humphreys & Partners Architects to design the condominiums to stay true to Palm Springs' modern architectural style.

The firm kept the Biltmore Hotel signage and used its trademark style to make the multiple units look like large homes from the street, says Robin Bellerby, Humphreys' senior associate.

"This project definitely pushed the envelope for our Big House design," Bellerby adds. "With multifamily buildings, all sides are so important that it was challenging to meet the seismic requirements and still keep the large expanses of glass."

Already under construction, the condominiums range from 728 to 1,414 square feet and cost between $250,000 and $500,000. Nexus expects to finish construction by spring 2006.

—Erin Massey