CRYSTAL BAY, Nev. — The odds of a Cal Neva comeback look more promising following news that the current owner of the historic resort on Lake Tahoe’s North Shore intends to restore the property and establish a five-star resort.
The intent is mentioned in a cultural resources investigation commissioned by CN Hotel Holdings, LLC. The report relays an abbreviated history of the region as well as a detailed history of the property itself, including the famed ownership of Frank Sinatra, who purchased the Cal-Neva Lodge for $250,000 in 1960.
It also looks at each structure on the property, which sits on the California-Nevada state line north of Lake Tahoe, in great detail to determine the cultural significance and viability going forward.
According to the report, the owner plans to develop a resort “to be in balance with the surrounding environment and community character.”
This involves renovating the existing 10-story hotel tower, which was built in 1969, making it too young to be eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Other structures — including the low-rise structure, consisting of the casino and the celebrity room, and wedding chapels, cabins and duplexes, four-plexes and signage — will be destroyed and revitalized.
Some of those structures have already been demolished, according to previous reports. That project has been completed, according to the project team. Permanent erosion control measures have been installed, and the project area will continue to be fenced in order to protect the delicate re-seeded areas and ensure project success.
The plans call for a new two-story building at the base of the existing hotel, which will restore some of the amenities previously associated with the resort, including restaurants, casino, conference center, spa and other facilities.
“The project is expected to bring significant environmental and economic benefits to the region,” the report states.
That development, should it materialize, would be welcomed by many long-time locals who long to see the fabled resort returned to its former glory.
As the report notes, the Cal Neva “became a world-renowned gaming and entertainment establishment” under Sinatra’s brief ownership in the ‘60s. It changed hands multiple times over the decades before it was bought in 1985 by developer Charles Bluth, who restored the property to high standing, according to the report.
“Under his ownership, in 1998, the lodge was named ‘Nevada’s best Getaway,’ and cited as one of America’s 50 Flagship Hotels.”
After going through a tumultuous period post Bluth’s ownership, the resort landed in the hands of a Napa Valley-based real estate firm, which purchased the property in 2013. The company planned highly publicized renovations, but never completed them and filed for bankruptcy.
The historical investigation notes that many of the existing structures have been stripped mostly bare on the inside, due to the previous attempted renovations.
Earlier this year, a venture capital investment firm headed by Oracle Corp. co-founder Larry Ellison acquired the Cal Neva through bankruptcy proceedings.
The new ownership, as previously reported by the Tribune, gave some community members hope that the property would be restored and reopened. At a public outreach meeting in August, a handful of community members told the Tribune they wanted to see a revitalized resort that demonstrates respect for the history and the environment.
Regarding the history, the cultural resource investigation recommends, in addition to commissioning and competing the investigation itself, to have professional archival photographs of the buildings that will be demolished or impacted by the project. The amount of photographs and views are to be negotiated with the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency.
The report also recommends the owners sponsor a booklet detailing the history of Crystal Bay and its casino for public distribution.
As for what is next, the project team is still working on crafting a viable project application.
“Since mid-summer, the owner, planners and architects continue to meet with the various regulatory agencies toward putting together a viable project application that agrees with all entities, and is responsive to the community,” the project team stated. “The project remains under development by the team. The revitalization is expected to deliver strong economic and environmental benefits to the Crystal Bay and Incline communities as well as to the North Shore and surrounding region.”