Historic Cal Neva resort at Lake Tahoe has new owner | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Historic Cal Neva resort at Lake Tahoe has new owner

Kevin MacMillan
A look at the famed Cal Neva from Lake Tahoe. The resort's tower — the tallest structure on the North Shore — will receive upgrades and a new paint job as part of the renovation in an effort to make it blend in better with the surrounding environment.
Courtesty Cathy Gillespie |

CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — The historic Cal Neva Resort, Spa & Casino has a new ownership group that is mulling preliminary plans to redevelop the famed property, a source representing the property said Wednesday.

Criswell-Radovan, a Napa Valley-based real estate development and management firm, recently became controlling partner of the property that straddles the Nevada/California state line, said resort spokeswoman Lee Weber Koch.

“Criswell-Radovan … is formulating plans at this point for this historic property,” Koch said. “The development group is reviewing options at this time to specifically work within the existing footprint and re-purpose the existing resort property.”

According to various online reports, Criswell-Radovan, out of St. Helena, Calif., was established in 1996 and performs services in oversight management, strategic direction and large-scale international real estate development. It’s operated by Bill Criswell and Robert Radovan.

According to the Napa Valley Patch, the company’s expertise lies in hotel development, and its portfolio includes the Calistoga Ranch and the Four Seasons in Dublin, among other world-class resorts.

Phone calls to Radovan seeking further comment for this story were not returned Wednesday. A spokeswoman at his office said Radovan was “very busy” and out of the office most of the day. Criswell was out of the country as of Wednesday, she said.

Details regarding the price of the deal allowing Criswell-Radovan to become controlling partner, as well as potential short-term and long-term goals for the property — which in its heyday was owned by Frank Sinatra and frequented by the likes of the Rat Pack, Marilyn Monroe and members of the Kennedy family — were unknown as of Wednesday.

“The preliminary vision at this time is to preserve the distinctive history and appropriately position the Cal Neva to mirror the beauty of Lake Tahoe and the surrounding Sierra,” said Koch, who deferred further comment to Radovan.

Originally built in 1926, the Cal Neva Resort, Spa & Casino includes 219 rooms and cottages, restaurants, a spa and open space featuring panoramic views of Lake Tahoe. The property, which has had plenty of financial and operational struggles the past decade or so, also features a 350-seat show room, 16,000 square feet of meeting space and a lounge.

According to previous reports, Namcal bought the Cal Neva from former owner Chuck Bluth in February 2005, and in 2007, Washoe County, Placer County and the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency approved a $60-plus million renovation that would remodel the hotel by turning rooms into 1- to 3-room condominiums.

Despite an original goal of construction to be finished in 2009, the property suffered a series of setbacks, ultimately shelving the project.

The resort’s bankruptcy problems also surfaced in late 2007. In November 2007, Canpartners Realty Holding Company lent Namcal $25 million with the Cal Neva property as collateral. On Dec. 9, 2008, Fidelity National Title Insurance Company, on behalf of Canpartners, filed a default notice with the Washoe County Recorder.

That gave Namcal until Jan. 10, 2009, to settle the debt. It didn’t, and Canyon Capital Realty Advisors took over operations in April 2009 after a bidder-free, two-state foreclosure auction.

The resort also closed its casino in April 2010 after three years of operating in the red before reopening in early 2011 with a handful of slot and video machines.

Adding to the problems, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency asked the resort in May 2010 to ante up with new environmental upgrades in the form of upgraded Best Management Practices. According to previous reports, the property had been out of compliance with environmental standards for much of the past decade.

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