Graceful Natives Adorn Desert Condominiums

Nothing adds class to a condominium like three score and 10 tall, slender, beautiful natives swaying gracefully in the breeze under a semitropical sun.

The particular condominium in question is the new Esprit complex being developed in Palm Springs by Heltzer Enterprises of Los Angeles. And the natives in question are date palms from a grove Heltzer owns about half a mile from the Esprit site on Golf Club Drive north of California 111.

Dick Rollins, Heltzer's director of operations, said the decision to use trees from the grove to decorate the grounds of Esprit was based on their beauty, their time-honored image as a symbol of desert life and their value as a natural resource.

"We checked around and these are some of the oldest palms in the area," he said. "And they've been well cared for. I was told that if we got them in before the season changed we'd have a good chance of less than 1% fatality." The bulk of the transplanting has been accomplished; so far, all are surviving.

No one knows the trees' exact age, according to Paul Heck, project site manager, but one estimate put it as high as eight decades. "We haven't had a chance to research it," he added, "but a better guess would be 50 to 60 years.

"So these trees could well have been youngsters back in the days of movie star and pioneer developer Charles Farrell, whose Palm Springs Tennis Club became a favorite spot in the sun for the world's rich and famous."

He and others in the company hope the palms will help the project attain "that certain 'esprit' of elegance and permanance." The developer is shoving in that direction as hard as it can, he indicated.

"We've gone to great lengths to take some of the humdrum out of desert condo design," he said. "In addition to the mature date palms, we've tried to break up the monotonous, straight lines with balconies, pop-outs and patios. And we're using a combination of built-up and tile roofs to avoid that typical massed tile pitch."

The project's first 55 units are nearing completion; two more phases are planned, for a total of 120 units. With one and two bedrooms and one and two baths, they are priced from $74,490 to $97,990.

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