Downtown Las Vegas Sees a Resurgence

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LAS VEGAS — Over 1,000 people have applied to work at the Plaza Hotel in Downtown Las Vegas, during the second day of the renovated property’s job fair.

The newly refurbished Plaza is one of many exciting things happening downtown, with the Smith Center, the new City Hall, and the mob museum. And new life is coming to other old hotels, too.

Fremont Street East is almost all new — not the buildings but what’s inside them. The El Cortez turns 70 in November. It spent $30 million renovating rooms, the casino and restaurants. Down the block, a few doors remain closed but new investment is breathing new life into this old neighborhood.

“We’re starting to call 2012 the Year of Downtown for good reason,” said Bill Arent, director of economic development with the City of Las Vegas.

The reason is downtown has never seen so many openings in the same year.

“I think right now we’re in a period of resurgence. There’s so much life and vitality coming to downtown, more room for growth,” said Alex Epstein, executive manager with the El Cortez.

The Plaza re-opens September 1st after a $35 million renovation. The Lady Luck closed in 2006 and is scheduled to re-open with new improvements in early 2012, along with the Smith Center, the new City Hall, the Mob Museum and the Neon Museum.

All of the city’s 61 acres but one have been sold.

“Downtown has really been in a turn around — an urban renewal for many years now. The Fremont Street Experience was the first and very important step in that direction,” said Golden Gate Hotel and Casino owner Mark Brandenburg.

The city has lured out-of-state and local investors, and got creative with fees to get more business downtown.

“We’re regulating less. We’re waiving origination fees for liquor licenses in our Fremont East Entertainment District, as well as the Arts District,” said Arent.

That has also made nearby casinos look in the mirror.

“With the redistricting of East Fremont District, which has absolutely helped with a lot of businesses moving into the area, and it also prompted us to look at ourselves and do some major reinvestment and work on our own property as well,” said Epstein.

A lot of locals don’t know what’s closed and what’s open. Binion’s Hotel is closed with no immediate plans to re-open. The casino remains open, though. Sister property the Four Queens is doing well, even bringing a new cabaret show this year. Lady Luck reopens next year.

Boyd Gaming owns the California, Fremont and Main Street Station, which are all open. As is the Plaza’s sister property the Las Vegas Club, which just sold out this weekend.

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