By Rosemary McClure | LA TIMES

Rowan -LA Times

Remember the old Palm Springs? A sunny desert town where Frank Sinatra, Bob Hope and many other Hollywood types partied in the '50s and '60s?

It crashed and burned when new communities developed nearby. Stores closed. Restaurants died. Builders abandoned construction sites.

But a funny thing happened as the decades rolled by: The city discovered a way to turn back the clock.

Everything old is new. Once again, this town is hot, hot, hot. Once again, it's the capital of cool.

The proof is in the clubs, restaurants and hotels that are popping up and in the hipsters who are flying in from San Francisco and New York City.

They marvel at the Midcentury Modern architecture, shop in vintage stores, spend the rest of the day lazing around the city's sparkling blue pools, then cap the night drinking single-barrel bourbon and craft beer in bars such as the Truss & Twine and the Amigo Room at the Ace Hotel.

There's also proof in a younger generation of celebs who are buying property here. Forty-two-year-old Leonardo DiCaprio, for instance, took over actress Dinah Shore's former home.

You can also find evidence in the evolving city, which is trying to preserve its Midcentury Modern heritage while catering to new visitors and longtime residents.

I spent some time in Palm Springs last month, talking with city officials, hoteliers and visitors about the changes.

The biggest turnaround is in the heart of downtown, where a seven-block patch of dirt used to remind visitors that an enclosed mall called the Desert Fashion Plaza failed here in 2002.

A lot of the dirt is gone now. In its place is a $450-million redevelopment project that includes restaurants, shops and hotels. Some of these are scheduled to open this fall, including the seven-story hotel anchor, Kimpton the Rowan Palm Springs.

I dodged workmen and piles of construction material on a hard-hat tour with general manager Abe Liao, who showed me some of the 153 guestrooms, plus the public spaces.

I found a sunny mix of minimalist design and contemporary colors. Nice.

But then we moved to the top-floor conference rooms, and I caught a glimpse of the panorama visible from the seventh floor. Amazing.

Spread before me was the entire desert valley, the craggy San Jacinto Mountains and Palm Springs glinting in the afternoon sunlight.

“This is going to be a popular place,” Liao said. “Wait until you see the rooftop pool.”

We moved outside. The pool was every bit as impressive as he indicated, with luxury cabanas, fire pits, lounge areas and a bar.

“It's the only rooftop pool in Palm Springs,” he said.

The opening date is listed as mid-November, but I tried to make a reservation and couldn't do so until December, so perhaps the hotel is hedging its bets.

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