Exclusive tour of Reno City Center reveals more details, plans

by Matt Orchowski / Jan 6, 2022

After more than 80 years operating as Harrah’s Hotel Casino at its corner in Downtown Reno, the iconic property shut its doors for good at the onset of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, albeit earlier than planned when the announcement Caesars Entertainment was selling the property to Las Vegas based CAI Investments, in January 2020.

The original plan was to keep the hotel/casino operating until at least October 2020 but Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak made the decision that all gaming establishments must close in order to prevent the spread of the then little known Coronavirus in a heavily trafficked area. Casinos were shut for a total of 78 days and the decision was made keep Harrah’s Reno closed. The sale transaction did close later in 2020 and work began in earnest on a complete redevelopment of the two towered property.

Fast forward to today, I was given an exclusive look inside the project as work is in full swing on what is now Reno’s largest ever adaptive re-use redevelopment project. Most of you know that adaptive re-use is no stranger to Reno, harkening back to 2006 with The Montage redevelopment of the former Golden Phoenix Casino, followed by Whitney Peak Hotel (Fitzgeralds Casino) and the Renaissance Hotel (Siena Casino) it always appeared Harrahs’s lent itself well to the redevelopment scene and with housing in such short supply in the Reno market, it only made sense that a developer come in and repurpose the property.

Workers are bustling through the property, up in the oldest tower that is in full renovation currently, two models showcase upscale finishes, modern appointments (see pics/video). Project Manager Brent Lovett said that upon completion, Reno City Center, as it’s becoming known, will be the most high tech high rise residential offering in the area with fiber running through the entire facility, super fast internet will allow residents to control elevators from their smartphones, in room temperature and more.

The tower that will open first will primarily offer 1 and 2 bedroom units, the final floor-plan is still being ironed out with a final decision made shortly on just how many there will be upon the phased opening. Lovett said the project will be opening in phases over the next 18 months. Everything residents touch will be brand new, he said a lot of the budget has been spent to repurpose main systems to individual units such as water and plumbing. He said it’s been quite the task renovating.

The “newer” tower or the old East Tower is currently operating as Reno Suites, when the older or former “West Tower” is completed, work will shift over and Reno Suites will be comprised mostly of studio units as of this writing, that plan could still change. Work is entirely focused right now on the Virginia Street side.

A true Live-Work-Play destination, Lovett was pleased to share that 100 percent of RCC’s retail and office space has been spoken for, he would not reveal a major office tenant that will house some 600 workers but did confirm those workers will be able to walk to and from their offices from a newly built skywalk connecting to the Whitney Peak parking garage, for which RCC has leased the top 3 floors. The skyway is subject to planning commission and I believe city council approval. 

Las Vegas based FINE Entertainment group will bring three entertainment venues to the property, one being a bourbon themed, and an Irish pub themed outlet. Starbucks will open a new outlet against the redeveloped Plaza turned “park” along Virginia Street. The iconic former bank building that has stood for over 100 years at the corner of Virginia and 2nd street will become office space for a major national name tenant, they will completely refurbish and restore the building to its original identity.

A grocer has signed a lease for what was the former Sports Casino on the East Tower or now “Reno Suites” side.

Lovett also pointed out the location for the mail room and doggy day care which he said will be Reno’s largest in a residential property. Both towers will receive fresh coats of paint with work focusing currently on the tower under construction.

Finally, the iconic former Sammy’s Showroom which had once seen the brightest stars of the entertainment industry grace it’s stage for weeks at a time, will become a mini golf entertainment venue with different layers, embracing its current layout and floor-plan and minimal renovation work to embrace the history within.

As for the famed Steakhouse at Harrah’s, sadly will not be returning to the redeveloped site...however, Lovett did hint at it’s return to be built out within the new Kimpton Hotel site over at Court Street, just a few blocks away... work is slated to begin this Spring at that site.

Rents have not been finalized but expect them to be at market rate, this is of course due to the countless amenities offered within. We did not visit the pool deck this visit, but that will also be getting a makeover. Balconies and “Juliette” balconies will be added to units as well in addition to the existing balcony rooms from the former Harrahs’s rooms.

We are greatful for the opportunity to tour the project and are looking forward to attending future media events! A special thanks to Brent Lovett and developer Chris Beavor, of CAI Investments.

Reno City Center Construction Tour

Post your comments
  • January 6, 2022 - 2:50:30 PM

    Great to see it all coming together.

  • January 7, 2022 - 3:02:45 PM

    You forgot to mention the former Kings Inns Inn and Casino, as an example of the an adaptive re-use redevelopment project. This building sat vacant for decades and now is the beautiful 3rd St. Flats. I live there now for about 1.5 years and love it! Moved to Reno from San Francisco. In your post you mentioned a video. I didn't find a link. Thx.

  • February 19, 2022 - 7:10:46 AM

    *Sigh* A very favorite casino is gone now. As usual, Mike, excellent reporting on work being done! I'm happy to see all of the progress that's happening in the once sad downtown area. I knew it needed to happen, but never actually wanted it to. Harrahs steakhouse was my favorite place to go on my gambling runs. I do hope to see that re-emerge one day! I haven't been to Reno in 7 years now. I don't think I'll recognize it! I am concerned about the massive demolition o Rama happening to the old 50's and 60's motels. The entire area was unique, and much of that is gone now, as the demolition continues. Those old motels again needed to go, but they did have character! '