Redevelopment: A long time coming |

Redevelopment: A long time coming

Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series focussing on South Shore redevelopment.

An overabundance of ill-conceived, unplanned 1950s strip development, said former City Manager Kerry Miller, ultimately inspired South Shore’s launch into redevelopment in the early ’80s.

“We realized that South Lake Tahoe was definitely not the kind of tourism product that could be sustained into the future,” Miller said before departing for his new job as Encinitas city manager. “We also became aware then for the first time that lake clarity was threatened by South Shore’s particular type of development, its traffic and congestion.”

In spite of numerous setbacks and delays, urban improvements have gradually begun appearing between Stateline and Ski Run Boulevard – the area originally designated for redevelopment. Embassy Suites Resort opened for business in 1991; Ski Run Marina Village construction began in the mid-’90s; Linear Park was completed this summer; and Park Avenue development agreements were recently approved.

Ultimately, said Miller, who was executive redevelopment director for the past 12 years, South Shore’s datedness coupled with a failing economy and new environmental standards established in the mid-’80s by the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency’s basin-wide master plan, made redevelopment a well-recognized necessity.

“There was a definite acknowledgement in the community that we had a deteriorating tourism product,” Miller said. “The underlying concept, which survives to this day, was to develop and create for South Lake Tahoe a worldwide image as a premier resort destination – a unique product that people couldn’t find anywhere else.”

So in 1988, voters approved an increase in the lodging room tax to support redevelopment bond debt and slowly the projects began happening.

The Stateline anchor for South Shore improvement became the Embassy Suites Resort – a 400-suite hotel with 6,000 square feet of meeting space, underground parking, a public restaurant and lounge, an indoor pool and a fitness center. Before this hotel could be built, the Redevelopment Agency had to tear down 526 existing motel rooms within the city limits to allow for the new ones. Although the hotel has remained open since December 1991, financial troubles forced its owners into bankruptcy just a few years later.

The western redevelopment anchor is the Ski Run Marina Village. Another bankruptcy temporarily delayed construction there in 1989 and the land and developer rights for the lodging part of the project were sold by the court to Signature Resorts, Inc. in 1994.

Ski Run Marina time-share lodging, which is scheduled for completion in 2000, includes 210 two-bedroom units with full kitchens and living areas.

A McDonald’s restaurant and Al’s Ski Run Chevron gas station, both former tenants of the area, were included in the project as well as a two-level parking garage for the timeshare owners. The last two components of the project, scheduled for construction in 2001, are a 13,000-square-foot commercial center at the corner of Ski Run Boulevard and U.S. Highway 50, and the remodeling of the Fantasy Inn to include 24 additional two-bedroom units.

Another future redevelopment hurdle – Project 3, the Stateline convention center – has the potential of becoming a public/private partnership, Miller said, the stakeholders being business owners already operating in the area.

If Park Avenue redevelopment, which includes a new Lake Tahoe Inn; a coordinated transit center; the Heavenly resort gondola; and the Grand Summit Resort with commercial space, happen next year as scheduled, Miller believes South Shore will be well on its way to becoming the premier resort destination first envisioned nearly 15 years ago.

“With the completion of Park Avenue and the convention center, and the total improvement of Highway 50, we will indeed have created what redevelopment originally intended,” he said.

BREAKOUT: Fourteen years ago, a community redevelopment study group formulated five goals intended to shape South Shore redevelopment.

n Redevelopment must be both economically feasible and environmentally beneficial.

n The redevelopment process should stimulate innovative design and planning to restore the rustic elegance for which Lake Tahoe was once famous.

n Redevelopment must create a vehicle to provide housing in the community which is affordable to workers in the visitor industry and gives them a stake in the economic success of the community.

n Redevelopment must make something happen within a short and specific time so that it does not become just another study.

n Redevelopment must result in the upgrading of visitor and lodging facilities in the community and, where possible, in a reduction in the number of hotel/motel units to improve overall occupancy percentages and the resulting income to the community.

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