Not far from where the massive, Chinese-themed Resorts World Las Vegas is under construction on the north Strip, a boutique hotel-casino with a similar theme is rapidly taking shape.
Over the past few months, workers have been busy building the Lucky Dragon at a 2.5-acre site on Sahara Avenue just west of Las Vegas Boulevard. The project, which is situated between the Golden Steer restaurant and the Allure condominiums, includes a nine-story hotel tower and a separate casino building.
The Lucky Dragon has progressed largely under the radar, but Penta Building Group celebrated the completion of the hotel structure Friday and offered a glimpse inside the work that’s been done.
Penta project manager Paul Dutmer said his company started on the Lucky Dragon just a few months ago and built one floor per week once the lower part of the hotel was complete.
“It has an aggressive schedule,” he said of the project.
Now that every floor of the hotel is built, Penta’s remaining work includes finishing the parking garage and constructing the smaller casino portion, Dutmer said. The project is expected to be completed next summer.
The Lucky Dragon site was originally intended to become Allure’s second tower, but “the market for that kind of residence collapsed,” said Greg Borgel, a consultant with Moreno & Associates who helped with the project’s planning process a few years ago. Once a second residential tower became infeasible, the developer decided to pursue a boutique casino instead, according to Borgel.
Clark County records indicate that the site is owned by Andrew Fonfa, the developer of Allure. Fonfa is also listed as the CEO of the Las Vegas Economic Impact Regional Center on that organization’s website.
Efforts to reach Fonfa or others at the center for comment about the Lucky Dragon were unsuccessful, but the center’s website details some information about what the hotel-casino should look like when it opens.
Broadly speaking, the Lucky Dragon will aim to create an “authentic Asian cultural and gaming experience” through its food, casino, hotel and service offerings, according to the website. Restaurants will include noodle bars, dim sum and tea cafes, while the hotel will contain more than 200 rooms and a spa that “combines China’s rich ancient culture with modern-day luxury and amenities,” the website says. The casino, meanwhile, will skew toward games such as baccarat and pai gow that are popular in China and will also feature private, Feng Shui-designed gaming parlors.
The Lucky Dragon has also apparently been seeking foreign investments. The center it is affiliated with is expressly designed to attract funds through a federal program called EB-5, which allows foreign investors to receive permanent legal residency in the United States if they meet certain requirements.
The EB-5 program is intended to help stimulate the economy — a goal which the Lucky Dragon may be able to further in the area around the north Strip.
In an area long populated by empty land and unfinished structures, multiple large projects have either opened or begun to move forward during the past year. SLS Las Vegas opened as a reinvention of the old Sahara resort last fall, the MGM Resorts Festival Grounds debuted across the street this spring and the shuttered Riviera should eventually be replaced with convention space.
At the same time, Malaysia-based Genting Group broke ground on Resorts World Las Vegas — located on the site of the Stardust and the scrapped Echelon project — in May. Australian businessman James Packer and former Wynn Resorts executive Andrew Pascal are also planning to build a resort called Alon Las Vegas on the site of the former New Frontier.
Those projects are years away from completion, however, so the neighborhood remains a challenging place to do business for SLS. That resort saw a $48.7 million loss in the second quarter this year.
Lucky Dragon, then, may be hit with some of the same struggles at first — namely, a lack of foot traffic and lower visibility than the more active areas of the Strip. But Chris Jones, an analyst with Union Gaming Group, suggested that the completion of Resorts World could benefit the Lucky Dragon by helping to build out the north Strip.
In the meantime, the Lucky Dragon may be able to benefit from its proximity to Las Vegas’ Chinatown neighborhood, Jones said.
“I think that they’re certainly barking up the right tree in terms of location and all,” he said.
Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Coffin, whose district includes the Lucky Dragon site, was optimistic about the project’s ability to succeed.
“It’s always good when development is happening north of Sahara,” Coffin said. “(The Lucky Dragon is) not a large impact on the community, but it is tailor-made for an audience that they are going to cater to.”