New look in works for former Fitzgerald’s property

Nicole Gross, project manager for Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno, knows that changing the community’s perception of the former CommRow property is a large but not mountainous task.

DRW Holdings, owner of the former Fitzgerald’s Hotel Casino building at 255 N. Virginia St., hired Miles Construction of Carson City to renovate hotel portion of the 16-story building while its ownership works to rebrand the property as Whitney Peak. Fitzgerald’s closed in 2008 and the property re-opened in October of 2011 as CommRow, a concept that failed to gain much traction either with visitors or residents of the region. It closed in January, although the second-floor rock-climbing park remains open.

Gross says management had been considering a rebranding as far back as last summer as it developed a working model for renovation of the hotel portion of the property. Demolition work already had begun on floors 4 through 16 when the property was branded as CommRow, but with no real working plan in place for the final design, the work eventually stalled.

“We felt like taking a different direction and knew we would be shutting down for a period for the sake of bringing something new and letting the old brand slowly go away and replacing it with a new and fresh idea,” Gross says.

Whitney Peak will feature 150 rooms in downtown Reno’s only non-smoking, non-gaming hotel property.

Once management put the brakes on hotel renovation plans in 2012, it kept the first three floors of the property open to see how the community related to the old brand, Gross says. The first floor of CommRow featured bars and eateries, while the second floor features a 7,000-square-foot indoor bouldering park. The third floor was intended to be a concert venue.

“We decided we wanted to change it (the brand) and hashed out these new plans and continued with the original concept of focusing on a non-gaming, non-smoking hotel and elevate that to lifestyle centric property with a targeted demographic,” Gross says. “We feel there is an underserved market in this community. There are many casinos, but that leaves this whole other demographic open. We think it would be great to bring them all downtown.”

Whitney Peak plans to position itself as a destination for traveling sports teams and other groups that may not want to stay in gaming properties in the Truckee Meadows.

Miles Construction won a $6 million competitive-bid contract and is basically gutting the old rooms. Architect Gary Estes, who has been on property for the past few years, and Doug Walton Architects of Las Vegas have created a plan for the new-look Whitney Peak.

“They (Miles) blew us away with their organization; they really stuck out as being frontrunners from the beginning with how comfortable they made us feel and their attention to detail in their proposal,” Gross says. “It is full steam ahead, and there are not a lot of issues with the building.”

Whitney Peak is slated to re-open in the spring of 2014.

The building’s owner also plans on redeveloping the historic Masonic Hall at Sierra Street and Commercial Row and a roughly 8,000-square foot building on Virginia Street next to Whitney Peak sometime in the future.

“The Whitney Peak Hotel is redefining Reno’s tourism landscape by offering guests a unique experience that appeals to all of the senses,” says Don Wilson, owner of the Whitney Peak Hotel. “The team at Miles Construction understood our vision for the hotel and demonstrated a shared passion for this project throughout the selection process.

“We have full confidence in their capabilities and believe they will be an integral part of producing a hospitality product of which Reno can be proud.”


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