If I had a nickel for everyone who asks me what I think the Downtown Project’s ultimate goals are and how they’ll pan out over time, I wouldn’t have to do this for a living. My stock answer is that I’m hoping for the best but that I’ll call things as I see them, which means a thumbs-down for their car-sharing program but a thumbs-up for the revamped Gold Spike, which the Downtown Project purchased from The Siegel Group about six weeks ago.
Some of the things I like most about the revamp are the things they didn’t change. The Downtown Project rehired many of the Gold Spike’s bar, hospitality and dining staffers, including a chef who’s been in the kitchen “since 1976,” says the Downtown Project’s Kimberly Schaefer. The basic décor is mostly unchanged, with only a few new touches—most notably outlets and bag hooks under every seat at the bar (and lightning-fast Wi-Fi), a full-size shuffleboard layout, dart boards, low-slung mod chairs surrounding tables with art books on them and a luxury Airstream trailer parked on the back patio. Even the most controversial change to the Gold Spike—the removal of its gaming—somehow doesn’t feel all that dramatic: Without the slot machines, the Spike’s tiny casino floor feels more like an expansive, smoke-free boutique hotel lobby.
Still, haters gonna hate, and the “Downtown Project Clubhouse” label has begun to spread. Sonny Ahuja, a Downtown Project staffer working on his laptop at the Gold Spike’s bar, shrugs it off and smiles: “It’s a clubhouse for everybody,” he says. “We want the whole community in here.”