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Best of Chris Sieroty
Chris Sieroty

Building of "authentic" neighborhood lays groundwork for Downtown Grand

6 November 2012

LAS VEGAS -- The Third Street corridor between Ogden and Stewart avenues was busy late Thursday as locals and tourists sipped cocktails at the Mob Bar or dined on salmon Caesar salad at Triple George Grill, their conversations occasionally interrupted by construction noise from workers overhauling an old, rundown hotel-casino across the street.

Fifth Street Gaming, led by CEO Seth Schorr, is overseeing one of the most ambitious redevelopment projects ever in downtown Las Vegas, with millions of dollars being invested in an effort to create a neighborhood that will benefit Downtown Grand.

The new hotel-casino will open late next year in the shell of the former Lady Luck.

Schorr and his business partner, Jeffrey Fine, have also overseen major changes to the five-block neighborhood that surrounds the hotel. Changes include new restaurants, Triple George Grill, Mob Bar, and Hogs & Heifers, and a weekly farmer's market.

"Before we can build a successful hotel, we have to build a neighborhood," Schorr said. "But it also has to be an authentic neighborhood."

The Third Street corridor is the main street running through what Fifth Street Gaming has dubbed Downtown3rd, a walkable district that when completed will feature retail, dining and entertainment options.

Schorr said the area's restaurant row will expand next year to include Pizza Rock, which will occupy the old Celebrity Theater space at the corner of Third and Ogden.

A retail center featuring 100,000 square feet of space is also in the works for a parcel of land adjacent to the Mob Museum on Stewart Avenue. Schorr declined to identify possible tenants or when the retail center will be completed.

Schorr said the plan was to create a neighborhood by developing around the Mob Museum at 300 E. Stewart Ave. The Downtown3rd project includes the successful transformation of an empty bus terminal near Casino Center Drive and U.S. 95 into a weekly farmer's market, which attracts about 2,500 people on Fridays from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

The centerpiece of Downtown3rd is the remodeled Downtown Grand. Fifth Street Gaming operates the Downtown Grand for owner CIM Group, which is investing more than $100 million into the project.

The two-tower, 650-room hotel, which is joined by a pedestrian walkway over Third Street, has been completely gutted. During a recent tour, workers were building interior walls, installing wiring, insulation, doors, as well as painting and installing new carpet in hallways.

After a year of work, Schorr said the hotel is getting close to deciding on the design of its rooms. Downtown Grand rooms will be priced at about $69, he said.

Schorr also showed off the hotel's 30,000-square-foot casino, which when completed will feature a factory design with exposed beams and brick walls. A new escalator will bring guests into the casino, he said.

The hotel will employ almost 800 workers when it opens late next year, with an additional 3,200 indirect jobs created, he said.

"We are creating a unique alternative to the Strip," said Schorr. "We also want to introduce downtown Las Vegas to people. We believe that over 50 percent of people that visit downtown won't be staying with us."

Schorr said it was about getting them to "check us out." He said once they do, "they'll stay with us on their next visit."

Pedestrian friendly streets, restaurants, a farmer's market are a starting point.

At some point, Schorr said more apartments and condominiums will have to be built in downtown Las Vegas to offer workers an alternative to long commutes. Schorr said it's about creating a balance between residents and tourists.

"Right now its close to 100 percent tourists," he said. "We want a mix of tourists and mothers with strollers in downtown Las Vegas."

For now, Schorr is looking forward to Zappos moving into the old Las Vegas City Hall. He said Zappos is the "key to growing the neighborhood."

"We see Zappos as a partner in developing our concept," the longtime Las Vegan said. "Zappos and their employees bring fantastic energy to the neighborhood."

The online retailer has already landed in downtown Las Vegas with some 200 employees located on two leased floors at 302 E. Carson. The move is a test run for the City Hall takeover with 1,300 employees planned for October 2013.