The Lady Luck's fortunes may be changing at last.
Fifth Street Gaming has big plans for the downtown Las Vegas hotel, shuttered since 2006. And earlier this week, those plans moved closer to reality as the Nevada Gaming Control Board recommended approval of a license for Fifth Street to operate the hotel-casino at Third Street and Ogden Avenue.
If the Nevada Gaming Commission accepts the board's recommendation later this month, the company's principals will move forward on $100 million in upgrades. When it opens in the first or second quarter of 2013, the property -- rechristened Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino -- will have 650 rooms, as many as 650 slot machines and about 30 table games, complete with a new design aesthetic and more than a few temptations for locals, said Fifth Street CEO Seth Schorr.
Most significantly, Schorr added, it'll be the first new hotel downtown since Main Street Station opened 30 years ago.
"This is not just a renovation. It's not just new carpet or new paint," he said. "The former Lady Luck was completely gutted. It's as new a hotel as you can have without demolishing the building."
David G. Schwartz, director of the Center for Gaming Research at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, hesitated to describe Downtown Grand as the urban core's first new property in three decades, noting improvements at the Plaza, which reopened in August after $35 million in upgrades to its rooms and food-and-beverage offerings. Also, El Cortez owner Kenny Epstein has spent nearly five years and $32 million improving the property, including converting a neighboring motel into the upscale Cabana Suites in 2009. And the Golden Nugget opened its $150 million, 500-room Rush tower in 2009.
Still, Schwartz said Downtown Grand would be good for the neighborhood's continuity and for Southern Nevada's economy.
He described the hotel as a "nice way to extend the downtown corridor" from Fremont Street toward Stewart Street's Mob Museum, which is scheduled to open Tuesday.
"It helps to tie things in more so you don't just have Fremont Street, and no one going off of Fremont Street," Schwartz said.
It'll also be good for the city to have hiring at a downtown business. Downtown Grand will have 650 employees when it opens, Schorr estimated.
He also described the hotel-casino's new theme: "industrial chic." Think old warehouse, with brick façades and visible catwalks.
"It will have a very authentic, metropolitan feel. It's a raw, industrial feel mixed with high-end luxury inside," Schorr said. "Designwise, it's unique not only to downtown, but compared to anything in Las Vegas."
The idea is to complement, not compete with, the Strip's billion-dollar megaresorts. While the resort corridor is a fantasy land for tourists, downtown will have a more eclectic visitor profile.
"People come downtown for museums, or because of companies like Zappos (which is moving downtown in 2013). You see people living at The Ogden (luxury high-rise)," Schorr said. "When you visit San Francisco or New York, you're not surrounded 100 percent by tourists. There are also people who live and work there. Having that downtown is what will give Las Vegas a cool, urban feeling."
Fifth Street Gaming also has big plans for Third Street, a private road that runs along the property's western edge. The plan is to use the corridor for live outdoor events, and execs are planning up to 18 bars and restaurants, some with indoor and outdoor elements, along the street. The mix of amenities should appeal to locals as well as tourists, Schorr said.
Schwartz said that plan makes sense.
"It seems to be building on the way that casinos like the El Cortez have tied into the surrounding city, doing things in conjunction with First Friday and (creative collective) Emergency Arts," he said.
The Nevada Gaming Commission will make a final decision later this month on the control board's recommended license approval.
"We're just excited that the Gaming Control Board had no issue with the company's suitability for the project," Schorr said. "We've been licensees for many years, and we take that very seriously. We're excited we can continue to work on the project and get it open next year."
Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4512.