Project 3: A plan for the future |

Project 3: A plan for the future

As the Park Avenue Redevelopment Project rumbles into gear, across the highway, Redevelopment Project 3 hums quietly in the planning stages waiting its turn to break ground.

Project 3, also known as the Convention Center Project, encompasses 16 acres bordered by U.S. Highway 50 on the north, Cedar Avenue on the south, Stateline Avenue to the east and Park Avenue to the west. The Stardust Lodge is an island within the project boundary that is not slated for redevelopment but will be remodeled to blend with the new look. Project 3 features its own version of alpine elegance with wood and granite details. Landscaping, streetscaping and environmental measures will continue the improvements begun in the Park Avenue project.

Project 3 plans include two hotels, retail shops, restaurants, an art center, a child-care center, a small manmade lake and a convention center.

Harveys Resort & Casino and its parent company Colony Capital plan to develop the convention center and one of the hotels. The Segal/Yuri families, owners of Sierra Shirts, are making plans for the remaining features, except Lake Passage, which the city will take on as a public park.

Lake Passage will serve as the starting point for a landscaped linear park to join Lake Tahoe itself to the state line corridor. Those who stroll around the manmade lake will find informative displays on the history and ecology of the Tahoe Basin as well as art and entertainment specials.

The retail, art, and child-care centers will anchor the westernmost end of Project 3. The retail center is conceived as a summer open-air market to add a unique touch to the city’s redevelopment projects. At the arts center, visitors can watch artists-in-residence in the process of creation and can browse galleries displaying the work of local artists.

A much- needed child-care center will provide children a safe and fun refuge while local parents work and visiting parents enjoy the sites of Tahoe.

The cornerstone of the project is the convention center on the eastern end, across Stateline Avenue from Harveys.

Because most convention business is scheduled during the spring and fall seasons ” the slow time for tourism on the south shore ” the Project 3 convention center is expected to boost the area economy during the weakest part of its cycle. In addition, the center is expected to attract many organizations that only hold conventions in California. That eliminates consideration of South Shore where most convention space is within Nevada casinos.

“By making our shoulder time available to those (convention) groups, it will address the weakest part of our cycle,” said Lewis Feldman, the attorney for the redevelopment developers.

A 1995 study by Coopers & Lybrand indicated strong interest in a convention center in South Lake Tahoe. Recent research confirms that the need still exists, according to Jim Rafferty, Harveys senior vice president of corporate marketing. “It’s clear to us, if we had more space and had more California quality rooms, we’d have (California) business.”

With confidence in the project’s success, Harveys’ officials continue to develop plans and designs for the convention center and one of the two hotels, which they expect to develop into a quarter-share resort.

“Harveys is spending a significant amount of money continuing the process, developing, testing, researching and working with agencies,” Rafferty said. “The project keeps on moving forward. We’re constantly in the mode of modifying and making plans now.”

When Project 3 will open for business depends on when it breaks ground, a detail that has yet to be determined.

The Park Avenue domino has to fall before Project 3 can move forward, Feldman said. “It’s not intelligent to commit resources to move Project 3 forward until then.”

For the city to take on additional bonding for Project 3, Park Avenue Redevelopment must be generating tax revenue. Under that scenario, Project 3 could start any time between 2003 and 2006.

It might break ground as early as 2002 if Harveys posts a letter of credit.

“The main thing is to get the Gondola running,” Rafferty said. The Heavenly Gondola to connect the Park Avenue site with Heavenly Ski Resort is expected to start operations at the end of this year with other areas of the project opening over a period of several years.

Expect detailed plans and a timeline for Redevelopment Project 3/Convention Center to come into better focus by the end of the year.

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