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Benjamin Spillman

Lady Luck put on 'fast track'

20 July 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Hollywood-based developers taking over the Lady Luck hotel and casino hope to reopen the shuttered property within two years and transform a segment of downtown that's been losing steam since early 2006.

On Wednesday, John Given of the CIM Group told the Las Vegas City Council his firm is taking over the Lady Luck from the current owners and will make it a priority to put the closed casino "on the fastest track to turn the lights back on."

It was Given's first appearance before the City Council, and council members and the owner of a Third Street bar that has struggled since the Lady Luck closed in February 2006 gave his plans enthusiastic support.

He was there seeking an exclusive negotiating agreement between the CIM Group and the city for land that is now home to Frank Wright Plaza, which is now a small park. The agreement, which the council approved unanimously, gives CIM Group the right to buy 5.5 acres from the city to use as part of a revived Lady Luck.

In addition to calling on CIM to give the council progress reports on the project, the agreement also requires the firm to consider removing a pedestrian bridge over Third Street that connects the Lady Luck's two hotel towers. City officials say the bridge blocks views between the Fremont Street Experience and the historic post office on Stewart Avenue that is being converted to a mob museum.

Given told the council he is happy to follow the terms of the agreement.

"I take it as an awesome task and responsibility to do this right," Given said. Later, he said breathing life back into the Lady Luck will be CIM's top priority for the project.

"I think there is a very good chance at being able to open in 2009," Given said.

He said CIM Group will take "full ownership" of the project from Downtown Resorts, the company that bought it in 2005 then closed the casino and hotel, displacing about 700 workers. Since then Downtown Resorts, led by Andrew Donner of Las Vegas, failed to meet deadlines it set to re-open the property. Donner did not return a Wednesday call for comment. Given did not disclose a purchase price.

Besides reviving the casino and hotel, CIM Group will create a development plan for adjacent property that includes businesses that were part of the Lady Luck deal like Triple George Grill and Sidebar as well as independently owned businesses like Hogs & Heifers Saloon.

Michelle Dell, owner of Hogs & Heifers, said the casino shutdown sucked much of the life from Third Street between the Fremont Street Experience and Stewart Avenue. Dell is hopeful its revival is a step toward development of an entire street populated with, "stylish, sexy and edgy," businesses.

Hogs & Heifers and a nearby pawn shop are the only two businesses on the street that weren't part of the Lady Luck's outgoing ownership's plan to revive the block. Dell said she has a 20-year lease top operate the bar in the building.

Dell hopes investment from the CIM Group, which boasts a $4 billion urban real estate portfolio, will be the boost the block needs to fulfill expectations she had when she opened her bar in July 2006.

"I've invested my life in this project," Dell said. "My own neck is on the line."