Michael Achenbaum had several opportunities to bring his Gansevoort brand to Las Vegas over the past few years.
This week, while viewing the $185 million transformation of the Barbary Coast/Bill’s Gamblin’s Hall into the Gansevoort Las Vegas, the New York City-based hotel developer said he was seeking “an interesting and unique” opportunity to plant his boutique lifestyle hotel on the Strip.
He never imagined, however, that a corner on one of Las Vegas’ most famous intersections would come his way.
“I know this sounds cheesy, but the reality is that this is a dream come true for my brand,” said Achenbaum, 41, president of Gansevoort Hotel Group.
When Achenbaum found out Caesars Entertainment Corp. and nightclub developer Victor Drai we looking at renovating middle-market Bill’s into an upscale luxury hotel, he jumped at the opportunity.
“I don’t think I could have been any more aggressive in my pursuit,” Achenbaum said. “To work with Victor, who is an icon in this industry, was an amazing opportunity.”
The Gansevoort Las Vegas is undergoing a renovation in which the only recognizable feature of the old building will be the outline of the tower when the process is completed next year. And even that space will have a different look.
The property will have 188 “Parisian apartment-style rooms,” including 19 suites, and the building is being expanded to include a new lobby area, a redesigned lobby bar, retail outlets and a 40,000-square-foot casino.
Television food personality Giada De Laurentiis is opening a 300-seat restaurant on the second floor of the Gansevoort that once housed valet parking. The walls have been knocked out and will be replaced by floor-to-ceiling glass, giving guests a view of the Strip, including Caesars Palace, the Bellagio fountains and the Paris Las Vegas Eiffel Tower.
Three levels will be added to building, which will allow Drai to build a 65,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor nightclub and rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip. Drai’s After Hours, which has been located in the building’s basement since it was known as the Barbary Coast, will return to its original downstairs facility.
Achenbaum credited Drai with the idea of re-creating the old hotel-casino, first opened in 1979 by Michael Gaughan, as a luxury resort.
“To be fair, Victor had been pitching this idea for years,” Achenbaum said. “We look at this opportunity as offering a brand that understands a sense of aesthetics and guest services.”
The Gansevoort Group is providing the design team and Caesars with branding, marketing and guest services concepts, ideas and programs.
“The whole design and whole guest interaction is controlled by our standards and involvement,” Achenbaum said.
His company, which he founded in 2004, developed two New York City properties; the Gansevoort Meatpacking NYC in the city’s Meatpacking District, and the Gansevoort Park Avenue NYC on 29th Street and Park Avenue South. The company also operates the Gansevoort Turks + Caicos on the Caribbean resort island.
Operating a 188-room hotel is Achenbaum’s specialty. He is personally choosing the various “touches and design elements,” such as fabrics and hotel room amenities, including unique items for in-room minibars.
“That’s where I get my enjoyment. That’s the fun part,” Achenbaum said.
He holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan as well as master’s degrees in business and law from New York University. Achenbaum held positions with Bear Sterns and Nomura Securities in New York’s financial district. In 1999, he joined his father William in real estate development and the pair have co-developed more than $1 billion in property.
Achenbaum said he explored Las Vegas because he wants to put Gansevoort in cities “where my clients visit.”
He had a deal with the Hard Rock to buy six acres and create a hotel that would be attached to the off-Strip property. But he got nervous when the market began to turn and pulled out of the deal. He was also approached by Boyd Gaming Corp. to be part of the $4.8 billion Echelon development, which was to include multiple luxury hotel brands.
In both cases, Achenbaum was told to build a hotel with more rooms than he cared to operate. He believes a true lifestyle brand is a smaller, more intimate operation.
Contact reporter Howard Stutz at email@example.com or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.