Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What Happens in Vegas: Megaresort to Rise from Echelon Place Ashes

In the waning days of the Bush Era--and just before the economic downturn--Las Vegas was a boom town. "Stratosphere" wasn't just the tower on the strip, it was where everything was headed, and the developers and casinos, everybody just thought it would last forever.* To be fair, Vegas had been on the upward trajectory for a dozen years or more, so it did feel like we'd just keep growing and growing.

Image from Wikipedia
But what do you do, when you've already got a dozen themed resorts, complete with fake cities (New York, Paris, Monte Carlo), a castle, a pyramid and more? Well, you move from resorts to mega-resorts. City centers, with multiple hotel properties on one site, with shopping and galleries and attractions, all within the boundaries of the new property. Many were planned, including Viva! which was never made, City Cener which was, and Echelon Place which. . .landed somewhere in-between.

Another thing we did in those days was implode old properties. We didn't just implode buildings, we erased swaths of Vegas history along with a great deal of brand equity. The Dunes and The Sands, long famed names (and signs!) were destroyed to make way for Bellagio and The Venetian. Those properties worked, and at least The Sands lives on as a brand as a convention center here in Las Vegas, and in properties in other parts of the world. But The Dunes is gone, and so is Stardust, one of the most iconic old hotels, with its (formerly) lightning bolt logo. Stardust was imploded to make way for Echelon Place, a grand city center megaresort, in the shadow of the Stratosphere.

The proposed new Asian-themed Resort World Las Vegas, from VegasInc
I remember when the project was announced. Originally, I don't think there was a "Place" at the end of the project's name, but it didn't matter. What did it mean? And it was dotted with other names that didn't mean much to most people, like Delano and Mondrian. Where older properties had a clear theme, this one seemed rather a conglomeration of stuff, and it didn't seem coherent. But we'll never know if it would have ultimately made sense or not, because in 2008 it just stopped. It just sits there--unfinished--a blight. Well, no more. After more than six years, and countless millions of dollars lost (six plus years of prime real estate earning zero dollars, just for a start), the property has been purchased, and will be developed at last.

And it looks like one of Sheldon Adelson's Malaysian rivals will be setting up right across the street.


Asian-themed megaresort planned for old Stardust site
An Asian gaming powerhouse is planning a $2 billion Asian-themed mega-resort on the Las Vegas Strip where the old Stardust was imploded and the stalled Echelon was planned. Genting Group plans to build the 3,500-room Chinese-themed resort with a 175,000-square-foot casino. The company calls it the “first phase” of a property to be named Resorts World Las Vegas. . .

Read more at: VegasInc

* Speaking of the economic downturn, and bigwigs not knowing it was coming, I'm still blown away by that. Not just the casinos and developers of Las Vegas, but auto manufacturers, banks, real estate moguls. CEOs get paid ridiculous sums of money for their "high stress" jobs, yet they seem to have no contingency plans. No Plan B, should things go south. No alternatives when people stop buying huge SUVs. Now that we have experienced very nearly another depression, will we be any better at this the next time?

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