Whitney Peak preparing for its fresh start

Goodbye CommRow, we hardly knew ya.

The failed attempt at reviving the old Fitzgeralds hotel property at 255 N. Virginia Street into a rock-climbing mecca won’t be recognized in the latest incarnation of the property. DRW Holdings of Chicago, and its principal, Don Wilson, abandoned the CommRow concept early last year in favor of an upscale non-smoking, non-gaming hotel concept catering to sports and outdoors enthusiasts.

Whitney Peak Hotel is scheduled to open May 17.

The entire first floor, which formerly had several small eateries and bars, has been renovated. A hotel lobby with an entrance on Commercial Row greets guests to the property, while the Virginia Street entrance opens into Cargo, a concert venue that can accommodate up to 1,100 patrons. The rest of the ground floor will be an upscale restaurant with a separate entrance to the rock-climbing park on the second floor of the property. Plans are in the works to add more features to the bouldering park that will allow for world-class climbing competitions.

Workers for general contractor Miles Construction are busy installing thousands of metal studs over the structural steel of the ground floor and have begun sheetrocking walls. Whitney Peak is slated to re-open in May.

Work will begin on renovating hotel rooms beginning with the top floors and working downward. Every hallway will be renovated and the rooms gutted at the 16-story property originally built in 1976 by Larry Fitzgerald.

Rob Hendricks, newly hired general manager of the property, says marketing the new Whitney Peak concept to drive-up customers from northern California will be slightly easier than marketing it to locals who might harbor lingering skepticism about the property after its history of start-stop-shutdown over the past two years.

“We have created a luxury boutique hotel that showcases a lot of natural elements,” Hendricks said last week in a newly renovated room on the property’s ninth floor. “We are trying to showcase what our guests are here to do.

“Reintroducing (this property) to the public initially is an awareness challenge and making people aware that there is something completely different here now and not just an ‘Under New Management’ sign on the outside. This is completely different and has been very well thought out.”

Room rates will be benchmarked against several of the business-class hotels located away from downtown, Hendricks says. Guests at those properties, who don’t prefer gaming and smoking properties, are target clientele for Whitney Peak Hotel.

Hendricks plans on hiring department heads for sales and marketing positions, and he also plans on adding housekeeping staff soon in order to begin cleanup efforts after construction work.

Fitzgerald’s closed in 2008 as the recession began taking hold in northern Nevada. The property reopened in October of 2011 as CommRow, but that concept lasted less than 18 months before it too was shuttered.

Whitney Peak plans for a soft opening in early May to refine operating processes in advance of its May 17 reopening.

“This property has been a couple of things, and most recently it was something that wasn’t successful, so (the challenge) is just getting people over here to see what we are doing and to take it seriously,” he adds. “I think I will have a much easier time introducing this product to the drive market, folks coming up from the Bay Area. We have to get folks that are local to get in their car and come downtown because there is something new and awesome where they will have a great experience. It’s not just for the out-of-towners; it’s something the local community can really take pride in.”


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