Monarch Hotel and Casino comes to Black Hawk

New casino and 22 story hotel tower

By Lynn Volkens

Black Hawk city officials and developers of a new casino/hotel tower complex plan to give Black Hawk an exciting new entrance for visitors traveling up south Highway 119. The new complex, which will replace and expand the existing Riviera Casino property, will be the first casino to greet visitors driving that route. Construction is expected to take two and a half years, resulting in a resort facility with all of the amenities and a shiny modern design sure to impress.

Monarch Growth, Incorporated (Monarch), who purchased the Riviera property in 2012, publicly revealed design plans for their new hotel and casino development at a Black Hawk city council meeting last week. Fitted snugly between Lower Main Street and North Clear Creek, the upstream end of the complex will be the main casino, a remodel of the Riviera building. Attached to that, expanded casino space with a 22-story hotel tower (507 guest rooms), a full-service spa and swimming pool, new restaurants and bars, 7,500 square feet of banquet facilities and convention/meeting rooms, office space and support areas. The current Riviera parking structure is scheduled for demolition and will be replaced with the hotel tower. Anchoring the complex, that tower will rise above a new six-story parking garage (1,551 parking spaces) on the former site of the Black Hawk-Central City Sanitation District.

The $250 million project is the culmination of two years of collaborative effort between Monarch and the City of Black Hawk. On April 10, 2013, Black Hawk’s city council rezoned the site for Planned Unit Development, vacated portions of Main Street, approved a re-platting of the site and granted demolition of the on-site structures formerly housing the Sanitation District’s facilities. That cleared the way for Monarch to proceed. Black Hawk is also waiving Monarch’s use taxes and the police and fire impact fees, and will rebate 50% of parking impact fees. Monarch and the city propose to share the sales tax generated by Monarch’s hotel rooms via Black Hawk’s Enhanced Sales Tax Incentive Program (ESTIP) on an annually renewable basis over a period of ten years. “What was just approved here today for Monarch is yet another significant milestone in the colorful and incredible history of the City of Black Hawk since our founding in 1859. You cannot continue to make history, as well as have a bright and prosperous future, financial or otherwise, simply by clinging to the past,” said Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman.  Monarch’s Co-Chairman and CEO, John Farahi, pronounced it “a very, very exciting day for us,” and said it had truly been a pleasure working with the city’s staff. The new complex represents a 118% increase in gaming floor space and offers new dining experiences with a buffet, steakhouse, specialty and 24-hour food services, Farahi said. The parking structure adds 359 valet spaces and 1,192 self-parking spaces. The hotel will feature rooms and suites with a fitness center, spa, swimming pool and outside deck area topside. Views up and down the canyon, and around the city from the 22nd floor “will be dramatic,” Farahi promised.

Architecturally, the new complex will have a modern look, referred to as “Black Hawk High Style.”  The design features exterior walls that may be all blank, scattered with windows or almost all glass. Monarch plans to use all three. The grand arched opening of the current Riviera, featuring columns, frieze and cornice, will be repeated to maintain design contiguity. Narrow arched windows on the upper stories, gable and hipped roofs, awnings and vertical and horizontal relief elements will enhance the facades. Landscaping includes sculptural artwork and a fountain. “It’s a first class project,” said Farahi giving credit to architect Randy Brown. “It’s gorgeous,” Mayor Spellman added.

Monarch has also committed to construction of an acceleration/deceleration lane for Main Street, a bus turn-around site at the lower end of the property, plus a ten-space parking lot to access the North Clear Creek Trailhead. A sidewalk will connect to the creek side recreational path that’s planned for the area once the Highway 119 reconstruction project is finished. Seven hundred feet of the path along the creek will be paved with a built-in snowmelt system, guardrail and lighting.

Monarch Growth, Inc. is based in Reno, Nevada, where it owns the Atlantis Hotel and Casino. Farahi complimented Black Hawk “for having such a progressive thinking team,” and said the Black Hawk project would have as much impact on the city and the state as Denver was anticipating with the Gaylord Hotel project in Aurora. Black Hawk’s financial staff is currently studying the figures to project that impact. “This will probably lower the taxes for all of Gilpin County,” Spellman predicted. In addition to over 200 current Riviera employees, Monarch will add 1,000 more team members, Farahi said, “plus all of the construction jobs that will be needed over the next two and a half years,” Spellman added. The date for groundbreaking hasn’t been finalized, but will likely occur in September.

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