Plaza renovation another piece of downtown’s renaissance pie

Plaza CEO Jonathan Jossel gives a tour of the hotel renovation project inside the Plaza, downtown, Friday, May 3, 2019.

A trip to Fremont Street these days will offer views of the first ground-up casino to be built downtown in decades.

The Plaza Renovation

A view of the hotel room renovation project inside the Plaza, downtown, Friday, May 3, 2019. Launch slideshow »

And while Derek Stevens’ Circa project may be the biggest job going in the area, another construction project, just a stone’s throw away, is set to transform the guest experience at the Plaza at 1 Main St.

Four floors of the Plaza’s north tower—a total of 112 rooms—will be completely renovated and are expected to be done this summer.

It’s the property’s second big renovation project of the past decade.

“Many people would have said, ‘Knock down the Plaza and build a brand-new property,’ ” said Jonathan Jossel, the Plaza’s South African-born CEO. “I don’t believe in that. I believe in improving this facility. I think it has great potential.”

The resort—owned by a private real estate investment company called Tamares Group—has been a mainstay downtown since opening in 1971.

Back then, according to the Plaza’s website, it was the largest hotel-casino in the world with 500 rooms, though it features about twice that many now.

Las Vegas—downtown and otherwise—has changed the past 50 years. Massive construction on the Strip has dwarfed downtown properties, but there’s a renaissance of sorts happening downtown, Jossel said.

“I’ve lived downtown since 2007 and, to me, the change and growth already has been monumental,” Jossel said. “In 2007, when I’d tell people I lived downtown, they’d ask me if I was okay. They’d ask if I was getting harassed. Now, people want to live downtown.”

They’re also visiting more, at least the Plaza, which sits on a 17-acre site. Jossel, just 35 years old and the Plaza’s CEO since early 2015, said the property had its best April ever and has been focusing on investing profits back into the property.

“We’re on a great run these past few years of growing our market share of the downtown gaming win,” Jossel said. “It’s all coming through to continual improvements. Our renovated rooms, I think, will be some of the nicest rooms in all of downtown.”

During the north tower renovation work, rooms were stripped down to the studs, Jossel said. They’ll feature new doors and new radio frequency identification entry systems, which all Plaza rooms have now. Two rooms on each of the four floors will be combined into a single suite.

“We listened to our guests, and one of their biggest issues were with the old-style key card systems for the rooms,” Jossel said. “We upgraded all of that to RFID last year. We’re using our own resources through our profits to reinvest in the property.”

North tower renovations will cost about $15 million. A separate renovation project aims to replace all 19 of the Plaza’s elevators, though that won’t be done for another two or three years, Jossel said.

While Jossel and Stevens are technically competitors, there’s also a distinct camaraderie among downtown property owners and managers.

Stevens also owns the D Las Vegas, Golden Gate and the downtown Las Vegas Events Center.

“When we announced the plans for Circa Resort & Casino, we wanted to make sure all of our neighboring properties were aware of how it would complement their establishments,” Stevens said. “Any type of new addition or renovations that take place down here, such as the Plaza’s, are going to benefit everyone.”

After all, the people who visit downtown, Stevens said, are most likely going to visit more than one gaming establishment.

Jossel said he expects the renovated rooms to be finished in June.

The public will likely have its first crack, Jossel said, sometime in July.

“We’re going to take two weeks where team members, myself, front desk agents, vendors will stay in the rooms to make sure they’re perfect,” Jossel said. “When a guest walks into one of these rooms, we want them to say, ‘Wow, this is a brand new hotel.’ We want them to have a flawless experience.”

Whether the talk is about renovations, the property’s Core Arena, outdoor pickleball courts or its unique artwork, Jossel believes in the Plaza and in downtown.

“Downtown is growing every month,” Jossel said. “There’s an experience here that there wasn’t even five years ago. We’ll never steal the Strip, the Strip is a monster, but if downtown keeps growing the way it is, it’s going to be good for everyone.”


This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.