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Casino owner Derek Stevens plans warehouse near downtown Las Vegas

Updated September 5, 2019 - 7:59 pm

Casino owner Derek Stevens plans to build a downtown-area warehouse to service his hotels, a project that has rattled neighbors and would pump life into a vacant lot with a far-from-boring history.

Stevens, owner of D Las Vegas and Golden Gate and developer of the under-construction Circa, wants to build a 62,976-square-foot warehouse at the northeast corner of Bonanza Road and Main Street, less than a mile from his Fremont Street casinos, records show.

The Las Vegas City Council approved project plans Aug. 21.

His long-empty project site was the former home of the 1940s-era Nevada Biltmore Hotel. Developers also set out to build an upscale condo complex there during the boom years last decade, but it never materialized, and the site went into foreclosure.

Stevens’ project representative, Todd Kessler, told council members last month the warehouse would be an “integral component” of the 777-room Circa — downtown’s first newly built hotel-casino in decades — and also service Stevens’ other downtown hotels.

Efforts to speak with Stevens were unsuccessful.

His team expects to break ground in November and hopes to finish by April 2020, said Rob Baker, field operations manager at Tré Builders, the project’s general contractor and construction manager.

The Nevada Preservation Foundation represented the adjacent 1940s-era Biltmore Bungalows neighborhood in discussions with the developer and suggested changes to the project’s aesthetics. The foundation’s executive director, Heidi Swank, said some neighbors are “very angry” about the project, and some figure it’s better than a vacant lot that, according to Swank, has had homeless encampments.

City staff had recommended the project be denied, saying it was “not compatible” with surrounding development and would have a “negative impact” on adjacent homes.

At last month’s hearing, neighbor Oliver Moore called the project the “Biltmore blunder.”

“How would you like to have a warehouse right next to your house?” he asked council members.

Baker confirmed the project would feature several components to give it a nicer look, including cypress trees, some wall vines and a mural that says, “Welcome to the Biltmore Bungalows, est. 1942.”

The Nevada Biltmore opened in 1942 and boasted Hawaiian dancers and music. That July, an ad for the hotel in the Review-Journal said it featured, among other things, rums from the South Seas and a “sensational dance of the midget and the giant.”

By 1949, however, the hotel faced foreclosure efforts and was operating without gaming or liquor licenses, the Review-Journal reported.

It also was briefly run that year — when Las Vegas was segregated — as a “Negro resort,” the paper reported at the time.

All told, the resort changed hands six times in the 1940s alone and eventually became a furniture store, according to Bob Stoldal, chair of the state Board of Museums and History.

City Councilman Cedric Crear, whose ward includes the project site, said at last month’s hearing that the property has been vacant for “decades.”

Stevens acquired the site in March but isn’t the first developer to eye it. And, like countless other parcels around the valley, it mirrored Las Vegas’ boom and bust.

By 2007, a $135 million project called Verge was slated to feature 296 condos and pools, a pet park and a fitness center with indoor racquetball courts.

But in 2010, after the economy crashed, the property was acquired through foreclosure.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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