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Queen of Hearts hotel-casino to be demolished Tuesday

Demolition to make way for new Las Vegas City Hall


Leila Navidi

The boarded-up Queen of Hearts hotel and casino is also on the site.

Updated Monday, Feb. 1, 2010 | 8:29 p.m.

Queen of Hearts/City Hall site

A three-story building in downtown Las Vegas that formerly housed the Queen of Hearts Hotel & Casino will be demolished Tuesday to make way for a new City Hall and office complex, beginning the process of bringing new development and thousands of jobs to the city's downtown.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman and other city officials will be on hand to make remarks and watch the demolition begin at 10 a.m. Tuesday at the site, 19 E. Lewis Ave., which is at the corner of First Street and Lewis Avenue.

The event won't involve an implosion or a wrecking ball but an excavator with a claw, said Amy Maier, a spokesperson for Forest City Enterprises, the developer.

Part of Lewis Street near the area will be closed to traffic Tuesday during the demolition, which Maier said would probably take no more than two days.

In December, the City Council approved building the new City Hall, which will be located between First and Main Streets and Lewis and Clark Avenues, two block south of the Golden Nugget and near a new downtown transportation terminal.

The $146.2 million project, which involves building the new City Hall building and parking garage, has been touted by the mayor and other supporters as the starting point in the city's overall downtown redevelopment efforts.

Project supporters say it will create more than 13,000 jobs, generate more than $4 billion in private investment and create millions of dollars in new tax revenue for the city.

Maier said site work had already begun on the property, but Tuesday's activity will be the first major demolition.

She said if the construction schedule goes as planned, groundbreaking for the new City Hall will take place in the spring, possibly as early as March. Construction of the new City Hall building is estimated to take about 24 to 26 months to complete.

Hotel had troubled past

The 100-room Queen of Hearts, which has been shuttered since about 2007, had a crime-plagued past, troubled over the years by prostitution and drug activity, health and fire code violations and even a drive-by slaying, according to archived Sun stories.

The property, built in 1964, was once known as The Casbah Hotel and was purchased in 1976 by Ann Meyers. She went on to buy the nearby Nevada Hotel in 1992 from pioneer gaming executive Jackie Gaughan.

Metro Police were called 680 times during 1994 and 1995 to the Queen of Hearts, which sat across the street from the Clark County Detention Center. Meyers said many people who were released from jail spent their first night of freedom at the hotel and celebrated at the bar.

In December 1995, someone fired shots in the hotel's lobby, killing a 38-year-old man in what homicide investigators said was probably a drug-related slaying. In 1996, the City Council threatened to take away its business licenses, but Meyers was able to work out a deal with the city.

In 2000, an arson fire caused about $175,000 in damage.

In 2004, Meyers sold the Queen of Hearts and another downtown hotel, the 160-room Nevada Hotel, to Barrick Gaming Corp. for $7.1 million. Barrick then sold the property in 2005 to Tamares Group, which was acquired by LiveWork Las Vegas.

In September 2008, the Los Angeles Times published a story about how the owners, to keep their gambling license, opened the shuttered casino for eight hours once every two years. The story reported the property at the time was valued at between $13 million and $15 million.

The city eventually acquired the Queen of Hearts block as part of a property swap, paving the way for what many hope to be the next stage of downtown development.

The city is under an exclusive, two-year negotiating agreement with the Cordish Co. of Baltimore, which is studying the feasibility of building a hotel-casino on the site of the current City Hall.

Cordish is also studying the feasibility of building an adjacent entertainment district and downtown sports arena on about 20 acres split between two city-owned sites at Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.

(This story was updated to include more information about the property and its history.)

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