• Thursday, September 20, 2018
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Long-stalled Vegas casino-resort gets new life

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS

    The partially completed Fontainebleau Las Vegas, blue building on the left, is seen along the skyline Augst 2017 in Las Vegas.

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LAS VEGAS >> The Fontainebleau is no more. Call it The Drew Las Vegas.

The hulking, bluish casino-resort, which has sat unfinished on the Las Vegas Strip since 2009 and became a poster child of the Great Recession, is now scheduled to open in late 2020 under a partnership between hospitality giant Marriott International and New York-based global real estate firm Witkoff.

The new luxury property, which will feature a casino and 4,000 rooms and suites, announced last month that it will be home to the Strip’s first JW Marriott.

“It is going to be a design-forward building, and when we bring it all together, people are going to say, ‘I really want to come back,’” said Steven Witkoff, chairman and CEO of the real estate firm. “The structure here is so well-conceived, even from nine years ago, that there are a lot of possibilities for us to put our imprint from a design standpoint on that property.”

The site near the Circus Circus and SLS hotel-casinos, as well as the Las Vegas Convention Center, has been dormant since 2009, about two years after privately held Fontainebleau Resorts LLC began work on the $2.9 billion, 3,900-room project. The 63-story tower was 70 percent finished when the recession stopped construction.

Business magnate Carl Icahn and his firm, Icahn NV Gaming Acquisition, bought the property out of bankruptcy in 2010 for $150 million. Witkoff and investment firm New Valley purchased it for $600 million in August.

The building’s design has not been finalized, but the existing pool deck will be “reimagined,” Witkoff said, in a way that it will differentiate the property from others in Las Vegas. The Strip has not seen a casino-resort open since 2010, when The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas began operations.

Tony Capuano, executive vice president and global chief development officer at Marriott International, said the company was particularly attracted to this project by the half-million square feet of convention and meeting space.

The Drew will be one of two resorts expected to open on the northern end of Strip in 2020. The other planned project is the years-delayed multibillion-dollar Resorts World Las Vegas, which will cater to Sin City’s Chinese and Chinese-American tourists. Both sites are within a mile of each other, in a less-trafficked area of the tourist corridor.

The combined addition of 7,000 rooms to the area will come at the same time that a mega expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center is expected to be completed.

Witkoff said a bridge will connect The Drew to the expanded convention center.

“We believe this is a portion of the Strip whose time has come,” Witkoff said.

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