Construction started on Lucky Dragon boutique hotel

26 May 2015

Plans for a 2.5-acre site near Sahara Avenue and the Strip had the bad fortune of poor timing.

But the parcel’s owners hope to reverse that inauspicious start with a new project — one whose name beckons serendipity.

Builders started pouring the concrete foundation last week for Lucky Dragon, a nine-story, 201-room boutique hotel squeezed between the Golden Steer restaurant and the Allure condominium tower, at 300 W. Sahara Ave.

The project’s developer, Andrew Fonfa, didn’t respond to a phone call by press time and companies working on the hotel-casino declined to comment, but a 2012 Review-Journal article on the property’s approval by the Las Vegas City Council noted that it would be the only area resort targeted at locals from and residents of countries in the Far East, as well as the only property that “even attempts an Asian identity.”

Since then, Genting Berhad of Malaysia has moved into the market on the former Echelon site, and is building the $4 billion, 3,000- to 6,000-room Resorts World Las Vegas to appeal partly to middle-income Asians.

Resorts World Las Vegas broke ground on May 5, and on Friday, a construction crane was in action at the Lucky Dragon site as well.

At least one local observer said the timing may be right for the hotel-casino.

“If it were another 3,000-room megaresort, I’d say, ‘Hold off.’ But it’s a small project,” said John Restrepo, an economist with local consulting firm RCG Economics. “I don’t see the location or magnitude of it to be an issue at this point. We’re finally seeing enough green sprouts of recovery.”

In the recovery, 300 W. Sahara Ave. has taken a different shape.

The acreage was initially set to become a twin tower to the $150 million Allure, a 41-story, 428-unit condo development at 200 W. Sahara Ave. Fonfa owned both parcels, and partnered with Fifield Cos. of Chicago to build Allure. The first residents moved in during 2008.

But the city’s high-rise condo market crashed in the recession, and the second building never happened.

What’s on the drawing board instead is a hotel-casino with a two-story, 18,900-square-foot casino with 478 slot machines.

There are also plans for a pool and three restaurants. The Review-Journal’s 2012 report said the property would emphasize baccarat and other games popular among Asians.

A sign along the property’s edge shows a rendering of a building whose exterior makes liberal use of red — considered a fortuitous color in China and other Asian countries — and a curvy design with few sharp edges or corners.

There wasn’t much foot traffic in the area Friday, but a project consultant told city officials in 2012 that the lack of pedestrians wouldn’t hurt the business plan.

“The local and foreign clientele will go there as a destination and will not be interested in walking up and down the Strip,” Gregory Borgel of Nevada planning firm Moreno & Associates said at a City Council meeting.

Borgel also said the developers chose the Asian theme because Chinese investors were backing the project, but he didn’t have financing details.

The PENTA Building Group of Las Vegas, which transformed the Sahara into the SLS Las Vegas Hotel & Casino, is building Lucky Dragon.

PENTA said in a Thursday statement announcing a June 1 safety-awareness event that more than 40 workers are on site now, with 250 workers expected at peak construction.

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