Although the Cal Neva Resort & Casino had planned to re-open at the end of this year, exterior renovations have been put on hold, prompting locals to wonder if the project had been scrapped. Employees were laid off in September and the building has since been vacant, with a “Closed Due To Renovations” sign put up. However, those close to the project say the Cal Neva will return to its heyday with an opening date sometime mid-2015.
“That was always hopeful,” said Kristina Hill of Hill Planning, the contractor for the project, of the proposed Dec. 12 opening date to coincide with Frank Sinatra’s 99th birthday. “Now they are thinking more realistically. It’s not really on hold.”
Jeff Cowen, spokesperson for the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, said the “Cal Neva is moving forward as planned,” and has submitted the proper paperwork. Businesses have three years from the date that their TRPA permit is approved to begin construction. However, Cowen noted there are “no hard timelines” with large projects in the Basin.
“In general, TRPA is hearing about a lot of positive progress across the Basin,” Cowen said in an email to Moonshine Ink. “Projects that were held up for several years through the economic crisis are moving forward again, demand for allocations is coming back up, long-awaited transportation improvements are moving out of the planning stages, and since the adoption of the new Regional Plan, there is a renewed spirit of cooperation and momentum evident.”
A previous Cal Neva restoration project was approved by TRPA in 2007. However, the Cal Neva, built in 1926 and owned for a period by Frank Sinatra, went into foreclosure in 2008. In April 2013, Bill Criswell and Robert Radovan of the St. Helena-based Criswell-Radovan, a real estate development and management firm, bought the deteriorating property. The owners plan to retain the resort’s historic character while turning it into a four-star resort. In addition to the Cal Neva, Criswell-Radovan owns prestigious properties such as the Calistoga Ranch, the Ritz-Carlton in San Francisco, and the Four Seasons in Dublin, Ireland.
“The Cal Neva hotel-casino business operation has been marginally profitable in its most recent history with seasonal high occupancy in the summer and winter due to Lake Tahoe’s recreational opportunities, and with low occupancy and revenue in the spring and fall shoulder seasons,” according to the project’s description submitted to Placer County last December. “There is a lot of deferred maintenance of the existing facilities and not enough revenue generated to pay these expenses, so the hotel faces a dubious future without a significant renovation and infusion of capital.”
The owners have already begun interior improvements to the hotel tower and main low-rise building. There are plans to relocate some of the existing spaces and activities, including the pool. Some of the older detached guest rooms and buildings will be brought up to code and remodeled.
Radovan had two community outreach meetings at the site, in August and November, with local residents.
“To date, all responses to the proposed development has been positive,” stated the project description. “Not only surrounding property owners, but also public agencies and community representatives are excited to see this iconic site brought back to life.”
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