Nugget CEO: Redevelopment effort still making progress |

Nugget CEO: Redevelopment effort still making progress

John Seelmeyer

John Ascuaga’s Nugget is likely to take a greater leadership role in redevelopment of downtown Sparks, says the chief executive officer of the hotel and casino property.

And even though redevelopment of the Victorian Square area appears to be stalled by economic woes, key pieces of the project are coming into place, says Michonne Ascuaga.

“We want to be done with everything but pulling the permits when the economy turns around,” Ascuaga told members of the northern Nevada chapter of NAIOP, a group of office and industrial developers.

Critically important, she said, have been continued efforts by the Sparks Redevelopment Agency to assemble a land package along Victorian Avenue. A parcel that houses a Pacific Pawnbrokers store has been acquired and is scheduled for removal later this year. And a building just to the south that houses a small market is in the process of acquisition by the redevelopment agency and also is scheduled for demolition.

Removal of those buildings, Ascuaga said, will open the plaza that faces the Century 14 Theater Complex farther in the direction of the Nugget. And the Nugget, she said, has considered removal of its Courtyard hotel property to complete the link between the Nugget and the downtown area.

The Nugget’s interest in redevelopment, Ascuaga said, is simple: “We’re all about energy. How do we create that energy on the street?”

Executives of the Nugget, which owns about 25 percent of the property within the downtown redevelopment district, increasingly believe they’ll need to take a stronger leadership role in bringing redevelopment to reality, Ascuaga said.

“We really need to step up if something is going to happen,” she said.

The last big plan for the neighborhood a proposal by Trammell Crow Co. to develop retail, offices and housing in the Victorian Square area floundered in 2008 after the housing market collapsed.

“It’s easy to get disappointed, but a lot of positive things have happened,” Ascuaga said. “We’ve got enough that we can keep moving forward.”

It’s likely, she said, that the future of Victorian Square will continue to have a strong base in events such as the Nugget’s Best in the West Rib Cook-Off, which last year drew about 500,000 people during its six-day run.

Victorian Square increasingly is viewed as the community’s living room, and redevelopment efforts that strengthen that position will aid the Nugget as well.

About 50 percent of the consumers who visit the Nugget these days are local residents, Ascuaga said.