Tahoe Biltmore redevelopment advancing — slowly | nnbw.com
Amanda Rhoades
arhoades@sierrasun.com

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Tahoe Biltmore redevelopment advancing — slowly

It's been a while since the community has heard news from the developer behind the once-controversial plan to redevelop the site of the Tahoe Biltmore.

The plan, known as Boulder Bay, to update the site of a once-booming casino property into a health and wellness retreat was first proposed in 2008.

After years of public meetings and comments from interests on both sides of the proposal, the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency Governing Board voted to approve the project in 2011.

Nearly six years later, the Tahoe Biltmore property still stands, barely changed.

"The timing just wasn't right, economically," Boulder Bay President Heather Bacon told the Bonanza this week. "And at the end of the day, that would have hurt the community."

She said the company's employees all live and work in the Lake Tahoe region, so they feel a strong responsibility to ensure the success of the project.

According to previous reports, despite the 2011 approval, Boulder Bay had been struggling to garner money to fund construction of the development due to the recession.

However, in 2015, the company announced it had secured financing in a deal with a private equity firm to move the project forward, while also confirming the company had paid more than $500,000 in back taxes to Washoe County to avoid an auction of the property.

Since, some progress has been made, highlighted by creation of the Sierra Park — a 2.7-acre public park near the Biltmore that was permitted as part of the Boulder Bay Master Plan — beginning in 2015 and wrapping up last summer.

There have also been two water quality projects added to the site — one in front of nearby Cal Neva Resort (which is a different property than the Tahoe Biltmore/Boulder Bay), and the other in Sierra Park, Bacon said.

The next part of the plan's buildout is the 18 residential condos adjacent to the park on the empty lot where the Tahoe Mariner Casino used to stand.

TRPA spokesman Tom Lotshaw said an application currently is pending for that work to begin later this year.

He added that in order for the permit to remain valid, the company needs to break ground on the next phase of the project during the 2017 grading season, which lasts between May 1 and Oct. 15.

As for the rest of the project, including the bulk of the work to overhaul the Tahoe Biltmore property on the north side of Highway 28 at the North Tahoe state line's casino corridor, a timeline is still being developed.

"The project is based on re-imagining tourism and the needs of the community, moving away from the old adage of gambling and more toward a health and wellness focus," Bacon said when asked about what the project aims to accomplish.

The entire development, once completed, will completely overhaul the current Tahoe Biltmore property with a new 275-room hotel with a roughly 10,000 square-foot casino space — a reduction from the roughly 30,000 square-foot casino space currently on the property.

It also includes 14 on-site affordable housing units, 10 off-site affordable housing units, a spa and other amenities, according to a previous reports.

Amanda Rhoades is a news, environment and business reporter for the Sierra Sun. She can be reached at arhoades@sierrasun.com, 530-550-2653 or @akrhoades.