Marriott International’s plan to open two luxury hotels at the Fontainebleau site in Las Vegas could finally provide crucial energy for a section of the northern end of the Strip that has been largely dormant for the better part of a decade.
Quiet since 2009 due to recession-era construction delays, the project is slated to open in 2020 as Drew Las Vegas, a 4,000-room integrated resort that will include a JW Marriott and hotel under the Marriott’s Edition brand, as well as a third eponymous hotel, the Drew, which will be overseen in part by former Cosmopolitan Las Vegas CEO John Unwin.
In addition to a casino, restaurants and nightclubs, the Drew will offer more than 500,000 square feet of convention and meeting space.
Between the Drew, the 3,000-room Resorts World project on the former Stardust site and Wynn Resorts’ 1,500-room hotel planned for its Paradise Park project, the northern stretch of the Strip could see up to 8,500 rooms added over the next three years. .
The developments signal much-needed momentum along a stretch where the only recent significant activity was the 2014 opening of the 1,613-room SLS Las Vegas at the former Sahara site.
After opening the Drew site in 2007, the 3,889-room Fontainebleau Las Vegas, which was to be a sister property to the iconic Fontainebleau Miami Beach, was about 70% complete when it filed for bankruptcy. Construction was halted in April 2009.
Financier Carl Icahn acquired the site in 2010 for $148 million and sold it last summer to Witkoff Group and New Valley for $600 million.
Meanwhile, the Resorts World site was acquired by Boyd Gaming in 2004 and paved the way in 2007.
Initially, an opening date was planned for 2010, but again funding issues halted the project in 2008. Genting acquired the site in 2013 and resumed construction two years later.
“Once you get past the Wynn and Fashion Show Mall, you’re in a construction zone,” said Mehmet Erdem, associate professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas. “If you’re an out-of-town visitor, you’ll turn around or take a cab downtown. I think in four years this place is going to happen.”
Drew’s development is also notable due to Marriott’s currently limited brand exposure along the Strip compared to hotel-casino specialists like Caesars Entertainment, Las Vegas Sands and MGM Resorts International. None of Marriott’s legacy brands are represented along the Strip.
In fact, Marriott’s only properties on the Strip are the 3,028-room Cosmopolitan, part of its soft Autograph Collection brand, and the 289-room W Las Vegas, which was renamed in 2016 from what had was one of the tours of the SLS Las Vegas. . The W brand was owned by Starwood Hotels & Resorts when that company was acquired by Marriott in 2016.
Roxanne Boryczki, president of AZ Trails Travel in Fountain Hills, Arizona, said, “The entire Marriott casino concept doesn’t fit my traditional view of Marriott. But the Cosmopolitan is an excellent hotel, so if
[Unwin] going to take what he knows to help launch the property, that will definitely be an advantage.”
It remains to be seen whether or not demand will meet the additional supply of rooms in Las Vegas which, with 149,000 rooms, represents the largest hotel market in the country. Last year, Las Vegas nearly matched 2016’s record visitor numbers until October 1, when a heavily armed gunman fired into a country music concert from the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the Strip, killing 58 people and by wounding 851.
By the end of the year, the number of visitors in 2017 had fallen 1.7% from the previous year to 42.2 million, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.
Erdem said the North Strip projects represent “a lot of rooms” and warned of potential speed bumps, such as a spike in oil prices, that could further reduce visitor numbers to Las Vegas.
But he also said current expansion and renovation plans for the Las Vegas Convention Center could further boost demand.
And he noted that while visitor numbers were slowing, last year’s occupancy rate among hotels on the Strip was 90%.
“Other cities would give an arm and a leg for that,” he said.
CORRECTION: The Cosmopolitan has 3,028 rooms; an incorrect number of rooms appeared in an earlier version of this article.