Developers seeking to put an upscale sheen on the Downtown 3rd entertainment district will need to include a pawnshop in their plans, whether they like it or not.
The owner of Ace Loan Co., at 215 N. Third St., the pawnshop Downtown 3rd creators tried to usher out of the area, has decided to stay in the hopes that business will improve once the former Lady Luck reopens as the swanky Downtown Grand.
"We are going to stay, and that is it," said Howard Bock, who with his wife, Caryl, owns Ace and another pawnshop, John's Loan & Jewelry Co., at 2230 S. Paradise Road. "I think we have a bright future there."
Bock, a longtime Las Vegas pawnbroker, moved into the building on Third Street and the second location on Paradise several years ago after selling a shop on First Street to make way for an expansion of the Golden Nugget.
However, the Third Street store found itself in the path of another casino resort renovation, this time by Lady Luck owner CIM group, which has a development agreement with the city to invest more than $100 million in its project by 2013.
Fifth Street Gaming, which CIM hired to operate several properties including the former Lady Luck, sought to persuade Bock to move again.
Bock had planned to move into a commercial building he already owns on St. Louis Avenue near Las Vegas Boulevard, but activists in the nearby Beverly Green residential neighborhood objected.
They pressured the City Council to block Bock's application for a waiver from distance requirements. That would have allowed the store to move within about 20 feet of another pawnshop and a few hundred feet from residences.
Steve Franklin, a Beverly Green resident and real estate agent who goes by the name "Downtown Steve," organized opposition among people who said too many pawnshops would detract from the area, which is characterized by historic homes and considered an improving neighborhood.
Franklin said that while he respected Bock, he worried the waivers would set a precedent for more pawnshops run by less scrupulous owners.
"It was the future after him that was a huge concern for me," Franklin said.
Bock, who owns the building on Third Street as well, decided it wasn't worth continuing to fight, especially because his existing store could expect to see hundreds of more people walking by daily once the Downtown Grand and city-funded Mob Museum open up on the same block.
"We are tired of fighting with a crazy fringe group," Bock said.
He plans to take advantage of the increase in foot traffic on Third by upgrading to higher quality merchandise in the store.
"That will be one of the best pawnshops in Las Vegas," Bock said.
Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming, said despite the effort to help Bock move, the company would welcome his shop's continued existence on Third Street.
"Fifth Street Gaming is happy to have the Pawn Shop as a part of Downtown 3rd," Schorr said in a statement. "However, if Mr. Bock does decide to move his location, we have many great concepts that would equally benefit the neighborhood."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-229-6435.