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Rivers Casino wants to build $51.5M 'four diamond' luxury hotel in Pittsburgh

| Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2017, 5:30 p.m.
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A rendering of the $51.5 million luxury hotel Rivers Casino wants to build on Pittsburgh's North Shore.

Representatives of Rivers Casino laid out plans Tuesday to build a $51.5 million luxury hotel that will connect to the North Shore casino.

Craig Clark, general manager of Rivers, said he hopes to start construction in late spring and finish in 13 to 16 months. He described the project as a “four diamond” hotel, which means it will offer high-end cuisine, drinks and full guest services such as ironing and clothes laundering.

“It's really completing the destination casino that we've always wanted to do, and now is the time to do it,” Clark said after briefing the Pittsburgh Planning Commission. “The market's been fairly stable these last few years, and this gives us the opportunity to grow, especially that destination business.”

The seven-story hotel on vacant property between the casino and Carnegie Science Center will include a restaurant, bar and fitness center on the first floor with 221 rooms and suites on upper floors. Two suites will have access to a rooftop terrace.

A two-story lobby on the ground floor will provide public access from Casino Drive to a riverfront trail along the Ohio. Rivers also plans sidewalk access to the river between the hotel and science center.

It plans to build a spa in existing space inside the casino.

Clark said the casino has not determined whether it will operate the hotel or seek third-party management. In either case, the hotel will carry the Rivers name, he said.

“In the next few weeks, we will be making that determination,” he said.

Guests will park in an existing garage, which has 3,737 spaces and at least 241 spots open at all times, according to casino officials.

The hotel will not feature slot machines or other gambling devices, which means people younger than 21 can enter. State law prohibits anyone under 21 from entering a casino.

Pittsburgh City Council in December cleared the way for Rivers to proceed with the hotel by vacating property known as a paper street next to the casino. Rivers will pay the city $217,000 for the property, according to council's legislation.

City and Rivers officials said the action was unrelated to the casino's agreement to pay the city $10 million this year in lieu of a local share tax. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court last year ruled that the tax paid to municipalities hosting a casino was unconstitutional.

Mayor Bill Peduto announced the financial agreement one day after council voted to vacate the property.

“There is no connection at all, and they were explicitly independent,” said Kevin Acklin, Peduto's chief of staff and chairman of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's board of directors. “The casino had a proposal for a hotel, and they went through the regular process for vacating the city property.”

Bob Bauder is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-765-2312 or bbauder@tribweb.com.

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