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El Cortez Hotel & Casino, Turning 70, Calls on Local Designers to
 Compete in Contest to Redesign the Hotel's 600 sq ft Suites

By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News

June 12, 2010 --The owners of the El Cortez have another sweet idea for remodeling the 70-year-old downtown hotel.

They are teaming with the Las Vegas Design Center at the World Market Center on a contest to redesign the property's 600-square-foot suites in time to mark the 70th anniversary next year.

The contest is open to all Nevada licensed interior designers, architects and design teams and is expected to help provide work opportunities for people in a field that is suffering from the recession.

"We love the idea of having more designers in the El Cortez," El Cortez executive manager Alexandra Epstein said. "We know a lot of designers don't have work right now. It's an opportunity for designers who aren't getting work otherwise to compete for this work."

Participants will have a $20,000 budget and some materials, such as furniture, will be provided by the Las Vegas Design Center.

Design proposals will need to be original and cannot involve any structural work on the rooms, Epstein said.

Randy Wells, vice president of the Las Vegas Design Center, was excited about the contest, saying it offers participants an opportunity to play with Las Vegas' rich and unique architectural history at one of downtown's most iconic properties.

"This competition fosters an appreciation of great design," Wells said. "Not only by showcasing the talents of our design community, but it will also manifest itself as a more luxurious experience for guests of the tower suites."

The deadline for submissions is July 22 and a $150 tax-deductible fee will be charged for each entry. The entry fees will be donated to Keep Memory Alive, which helps fund the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

Epstein, who will be one of the judges, said the property hopes to have nearly 100 entries. From that group, four designers or teams will be chosen to implement their designs in one of the hotel's 14 suites later this year.

A final winner will be chosen to remodel some of the remaining suites.

Some of the suites were remodeled four years ago, but others haven't been redone in nearly a decade, Epstein said.

In addition to Epstein and her father, El Cortez Chief Executive Officer Kenny Epstein, the contest entries will be judged by Todd-Avery Lenahan, principal of ABA Design Studio; Cleo Design owner Ann Fleming; Urban Design Associates principal Kurstin Schmitz; and Cary Vogel, former vice president of interior architecture at Pinnacle Entertainment.

"They will be judged on inventiveness of the design that is going to work with the whole vibe of the hotel," Epstein said. "We don't want something that is going to be off-putting to our customers. It has to work. It has to make sense for us. It just has to feel right. We want a variety of designs so we're not looking for one specific thing. But we're definitely looking for something that is going to be comfortable for our higher-end customers."

The suite redesign is part of a multimillion-dollar renovation of the downtown property.

The hotel has built a new walkway that leads from Las Vegas Boulevard to its porte cochere. The El Cortez reopened the old 100-room Ogden House in May 2009 as the 64-room Cabana Suites, which has a gym and a business center. The property recently renovated its 300-room hotel tower, except for the suites.

Contact reporter Arnold M. Knightly at or 702-477-3893.


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