sls-vegasTwo years in the waiting, the massive undertaking of transforming the Sahara into the grand SLS Las Vegas has finally begun in earnest, after SBE Entertainment Group LLC received the final piece of the funding pie they had been waiting on; a little $415 million chunk that will carry this Las Vegas casino project to completion.

The project is no mere cosmetic facelift to the old Sahara casino, which was purchased by SBE in 2007 and closed in 2011. That may work for Hollywood stars, but not for a facility that was deemed at its closure to be economically unviable. Despite that, the building and property have been maintained, rather than torn down, for the eventual upgrade.

“I know these kinds of projects usually begin with an explosion,” SBE Chief Executive Officer Sam Nazarian said Tuesday. “We’ve been on the property since it closed, maintaining the building and the facility. This week, we’ll start the interior push.”

That interior push will include an entire redecorating and refurbishing of the property, as all of the Sahara’s furnishings and memorabilia were sold off in an estate sale. The interior is getting far more than just a Martha Stewart makeover however, with the property being transformed into a virtual community with two nightclubs, several restaurants, and a multitude of shops, in addition to the 1620 hotel suites.

Not every facet of the old Sahara property will survive the scalpel however; a small hotel structure will be torn down, while two of the remaining three hotel towers will also be scaled back. The renovation work will be overseen by Gensler Architects and Penta Building Group.

The SLS Las Vegas will be the largest SLS hotel in the U.S, which currently includes hotels in Los Angeles, New York, and South Beach, with additional hotels planned for Boston, Philadelphia, Seattle, and Houston.

The final piece of funding came courtesy the EB-5 program, a government program that encourages foreign investment in job-creating American businesses by moving foreign investors to the front of the line for green cards. More than half of the $415 million came from Chinese and Thailand nationals through the EB-5 program. The construction work on the SLS Las Vegas is expected to create 8,500 jobs, while another 2,500 permanent jobs will be created once the hotel-casino officially opens its renovated doors.

In fact the investment money generated through the EB-5 program was much more than expected, to the point that it will allow SBE to pay down its note on the Sahara property.

The SLS Las Vegas hotel and casino is planned for a fall 2014 grand re-opening.