The name "Lady Luck" has been an oxymoron in recent years for the Las Vegas hotel casino, but it's not always been that way. Before the latest news, here's a quick history. The property opened in 1961 as "Honest John's", a news stand with 17 slot machines. By 1968 it grew into the Lady Luck casino and from there added a new hotel tower in 1986 and a second in 1989. This period was also the beginning of the Las Vegas Strip resort building boom that began to take it's toll on the downtown properties. In 1995, the $70 million Fremont Street Experience with the 4 block long world's largest "Viva Vision" TV and free entertainment was built as a visitor attraction. With Lady Luck 2 blocks away, it didn't seem to help foot traffic and the property went through a few changes in ownership.
By 2005 things appeared to be looking up for the Lady. The new owner, Downtown Resorts, added Triple George Grill, Sidebar, and Hogs & Heifers along 3rd street adjacent to the property, and announced major renovations. To the surprise of many they closed in Feb, 2006, because to do this cut off their cash flow. The demolition began, but when the short term bridge funding ran out, everything stopped as permanent financing wasn't secured. The unfinished shell had Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman quoted as saying he felt he was looking at a carcass out his office window.
Then in July 2007 Hollywood's CIM Group announced it was coming to the rescue. This well known and well financed company has done many similar and successful urban renovation mixed use projects and would be a perfect fit. By September it was learned that they had hoped to make a retail promenade to help guide people to the property, and the soon to come Mob Museum in the Old Post Office building across Stewart Ave.
Since then everything has been quiet. With the current financial crunch there has been speculation that the Lady Luck would continue to sit in it's unfinished state. My behind the scenes source of everything Las Vegas has a little different story to tell. Since last Sep. CIM has been quietly transferring ownership or leases to properties and buying some others. As recently as this month it was reassigning deeds of trust from the timeshare component. Coming up next week on July 2 CIM will meet with the City Council for discussion and possible action on their development agreement.
That agreement calls for a minimum of $100 million of construction to start by Dec. 31 of 2009 and to be substantially completed by Dec. 31 of 2011. There are also requirements for new street scaping along 3rd St. between Ogden and Stewart Ave and a new pedestrian bridge to cross between the 2 hotel towers. These requirements are also part of an Exclusive Negotiation Agreement (ENA) for 5 acres of property across Stewart Ave that would also be developed by CIM, with other items including a parking garage furnished by the city. For the land, CIM would be required to build 100,000 to 200,000 square feet of retail, plus an additional 350,000 to 500,000 square feet, that could include a hotel, residential and/or office, food service, restaurant, bar, tavern, night club, meeting facilities, dancing, lounge and all other uses normally associated with a large scale vertical mixed-use development.
This agreement would also allow for a 50 year extension of the lease of the city owned parking garage on Ogden with an option to buy, provided that CIM would invest a minimum of $500,000 into improvements. CIM has already acquired the adjacent parcel to the south along 3rd. St.
While construction wouldn't have to begin until next year, this would complement several recently completed projects, those that are underway, and those soon to come around the downtown area. The Golden Nugget has it's new hotel tower under construction, and it's opened addition with the new Shark Tank with the slide through it into the pool has been a big hit.
Across Las Vegas Blvd from Fremont is the new entertainment district, Fremont East. The street scape is done in retro neon style and has attracted nightclubs and lounges like the Griffin and Beauty Bar Salon, Downtown Cocktail Room, and Take 1 Nightclub to name a few. North of Fremont on Las Vegas Blvd is the recently completed Streamline Towers condominiums.
The largest development downtown is the $6 billion Union Park on 61 acres of former brownfields located on the west side from Main St. at the end of the Fremont Street. There will be 5 districts located on the site, with Specialty, Retail, Residential, Civic, and Office / Medical. Under construction in the Medical District is the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute for Alzheimer's research. Later this year the Smith Center for the Performing Arts will begin construction on the $475 million complex that will anchor Symphony Park in the Civic District. In the Specialty district there is a proposed Charlie Palmer Hotel, and the World Jewelry Center, a 50 story 1 million square foot building that is scheduled to start construction in 2009 and is 33% sold.
Currently the parcel is bounded to the south by the Clark County Government Center and Amphitheater, plus the Las Vegas Premium Outlets. To the west is the furniture buyers showcase, the World Market Center, with 5 million square feet of the campus constructed and a total build out of 12 million square feet.
So as you can see, the Lady Luck won't be alone once the construction begins. There are a number of projects that will add to the growth of Las Vegas over the next few years, along with employment and cultural opportunities and medical developments that will offer benefits for residents valley wide. It's also in addition to the $30 billion in construction just on the Las Vegas Strip. Later this year is the opening of Wynn's Encore and hiring should begin in mid July for 5300 new jobs. The $9.2 billion MGM City Center, with the casino resort recently named Aria Las Vegas, and will be coming online in 2009 along with the Fontainebleau. You also have Caesars Palace with it's Octavious Tower addition, Echelon Place on the site of the former Stardust, and many more. For a glimpse of some of that construction, check out my Las Vegas Strip View.