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Paragon proposes an ‘urban resort’ after casino plan nixed

Developers’ rendering of Site 10A, a proposed hotel and casino concept next to B.C. Place in downtown Vancouver.

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Las Vegas-based Paragon Development has unveiled a new proposal for a $535-million "urban resort" to replace a project that foundered when Vancouver city council rejected plans for a destination casino at the heart of the complex.

Paragon officials said the new proposal reflected feedback from city officials and would be markedly different than the company's previous concept.

"When the city council approved our relocation back in 2011, we listened very carefully to the questions, concerns and suggestions that they laid down," Paragon president Scott Menke said at a briefing in Vancouver. "We needed to do that, because we needed to get it right. … The urban resort concept is very different than the casino resorts that many people think of, especially the ones in Las Vegas."

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The plan announced on Tuesday includes space for Paragon's Edgewater Casino – currently next to False Creek at a site slated for redevelopment – as well as two hotels, a conference centre and restaurants.

A group that spearheaded opposition to Paragon's previous proposal was quick to wave warning flags about the new plan, citing a lack of transparency and financial concerns.

"This is a terrible deal for both the city of Vancouver and the province of B.C.," Sandy Garossino, spokeswoman for Vancouver Not Vegas, said on Tuesday in a statement. "If Edgewater cannot expand its slot machines and gaming tables, it's a business certainty that revenues to the province and the city will fall, because Edgewater's expenses are about to rise precipitously."

Paragon's previous plan called for expanding the Edgewater casino from 600 slot machines and 75 gaming tables to as many as 1,500 slot machines and 150 gaming tables. After a public backlash, city council in April, 2011, approved rezoning the site, but rejected the expanded casino.

Paragon's revised proposal is subject to regulatory approval by the city.

Under the plan, a relocated casino, hotels and restaurants are supposed to blend into a neighbourhood that includes B.C. Place and Rogers Arena, and residential towers, including ones planned or under construction.

Paragon's partners include Toronto-based Dundee Corp. and 360 Vox, a real-estate development company whose biggest shareholder is Dundee.

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According to an economic impact assessment commissioned by Paragon, the project would create about 2,000 jobs and generate $180-million a year for the local economy, as well as annual spin-off spending of $87-million.

The project would be built on land owned by B.C. Pavilion Corp., a Crown corporation that plans to offset the costs of its more than $500-million recent renovation of B.C. Place – including a new roof – with lease revenues from Paragon.

Paragon and PavCo have signed a proposed ground lease that calls for a 70-year term and rent of $3-million a year.

Asked if the design would allow the casino to be expanded later, Paragon president Scott Menke said the company is "not contemplating that right now."

"We heard very clearly from city council that it was 600 machines and 75 table games. So we are going into this reconcepting this as an urban resort with much more emphasis on hotel rooms and engagement with B.C. Place and surrounding entertainment areas," Mr. Menke said.

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About the Author
National correspondent

Based in Vancouver, Wendy Stueck has covered technology and business and now reports on British Columbia issues including natural resources, aboriginal issues and urban affairs. More

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