Vacant lot may become home to Asian-themed resort

A vacant lot once meant for a condominium tower is now planned as the unorthodox location for a new Asian-oriented resort.

Plans for the Lucky Dragon, proposed as a 10-story, 201-room hotel with a casino, will come before the Las Vegas City Council for approval on Feb. 15. If it opens, it would become the only resort targeted at both locals from and residents of countries in the Far East and would be the only one that even attempts an Asian identity now that Caesars Entertainment Corp. has said it would change the name of the Imperial Palace as part of a general overhaul.

The Lucky Dragon, fronting on Sahara Avenue about a block west of the Strip, between the Allure condo and the Golden Steer restaurant, would stand apart in an area that has become known in the past few years more for blight than high rollers. The north section of the Strip, where the casino industry took off in the 1940s, is now dotted with empty lots, projects halted midway through construction and properties well past their primes.

However, said Gregory Borgel, vice president of planning and development services for project consultant Moreno & Associates, the almost total lack of pedestrian traffic does not affect the Lucky Dragon's business plan.

"I don't think the developer sees this as a problem," he said. "The local and foreign clientele will go there as a destination and will not be interested in walking up and down the Strip."

Project developer and long-time real estate investor Andrew Fonfa, who already owns the 2.6-acre parcel, could not be reached for comment. County records show that last year he bought another 0.2 acres on the back of the property, now an abandoned apartment building, for $289,000

It was unclear whether the all-important financing is in place or how much the Lucky Dragon would cost. Borgel said the Asian theme was selected because Chinese investors were backing it, but he did not know the specifics.

Besides an 18,900-square-foot casino that would emphasize games, such as baccarat, that are popular among Asians, the exterior would feature the liberal use of red, considered a lucky color in Asian countries including China. Dining locations would also have Asian menus.

However, Las Vegas architect Ed Vance said the Lucky Dragon will not resemble something from 19th century Beijing.

"The goal nowadays is to create good architecture," he said. "We don't do much in the way of thematic architecture anymore."

The plans also show 478 slot machines and a 446-space parking garage.

Fonfa has owned the site for years, but sold about half of it to the company that built the Allure. The Lucky Dragon site originally was meant for as a twin to the Allure, but the weak sales that accompanied the recession and oversupply of high-rise condos on the Strip caused the original plan to be shelved.

Besides local properties, Fonfa and partners took over the Indian Springs Casino about six years ago, so he already won clearance from the Nevada Gaming Authority for a license. The Lucky Dragon lies within the city's gaming district and already has commercial zoning.

The Las Vegas Planning Commission approved the project on Jan. 10.

Contact reporter Tim O'Reiley at or 702-387-5290.