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After years of hope, future of north Strip still in flux

Updated October 17, 2021 - 9:06 am

The north edge of the Strip, for years a sleepy stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard, got a big boost of momentum this year.

Resorts World Las Vegas debuted in June to an estimated crowd of 20,000 visitors and 5,000 VIPs. Huge crowds waited outside to get in on opening night, and the 3,500-room casino resort generated nearly $15 million in revenue during its first six days, developer Genting Group reported.

Locals have long predicted better days ahead for the north Strip, in large part because of Resorts World. But as a burst of news showed this week, the area’s future is still in flux.

Marriott International confirmed Thursday that it reached an “amicable settlement” with the owner of the unfinished former Fontainebleau that resulted in the hotel chain exiting the long-stalled casino project, which got started during the mid-2000s bubble and has yet to open.

Florida developer Jeffrey Soffer’s firm Fontainebleau Development, which acquired the property in February, said in a statement that as it “moves forward with the project in Las Vegas, we feel it is important to make clear that, upon opening, the hotel will be managed and operated by Fontainebleau Development.”

It also noted the agreement with Marriott, announced in 2018, “was made with the building’s previous owner.”

“Having come full circle and taken ownership of the site in Las Vegas, we intend to fulfill our original vision and deliver the same extraordinary hospitality experience that our guests have come to expect from Fontainebleau Development,” the statement said.

Soffer was the project’s original developer. His group hasn’t announced when the 60-plus-story resort would open, or what it would be called.

Meanwhile, Majestic Las Vegas developer Lorenzo Doumani said Wednesday that he plans to start construction on his 720-room nongaming hotel in the first quarter of 2022, after stating in January that he expected to break ground in late summer or early fall this year.

However, Doumani says he is “still on track” to complete the roughly $850 million project in late 2024.

Also, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors on Tuesday approved selling 10 acres of the former Riviera site to a Chilean developer for $120 million — a lucrative deal that may not result in a new project anytime soon.

Under the terms of the sale, the buyer must start construction by Jan. 1, 2031 — more than nine years from now — or the LVCVA can buy back the land.

After the real estate frenzy of 15 years ago flamed out, the north Strip was saddled with huge tracts of land where projects never materialized, and a few unfinished megaresorts that were left to collect dust. Since then, the area has seen other big plans, but they have largely stalled or fizzled. Even Resorts World debuted five years after the developers initially planned to open.

Ex-NBA player Jackie Robinson’s proposed arena and hotel project, which he announced in late 2013, still hasn’t materialized, and casino operator Wynn Resorts hasn’t said when it plans to develop its 38 acres of land between Resorts World and Fashion Show mall.

Wynn reached a $336 million deal in late 2017 to acquire the plot — former home of the imploded New Frontier and the proposed-but-never-built Alon Las Vegas — and company founder Steve Wynn said in early 2018 that he wanted to move quickly on a project.

Days later, The Wall Street Journal reported that Wynn had a decadeslong pattern of sexual misconduct. Wynn, who called the allegations “preposterous,” soon resigned as chairman and CEO of his company, citing “an avalanche of negative publicity.”

On top of all this, there’s no telling when the pandemic will be a thing of the past, or when Las Vegas will fully recover from the severe economic fallout.

People have been saying for years that the north Strip’s recovery is just around the corner, and the area has indeed shown signs of life. But given the state of some plots and projects along that end of the boulevard, don’t be surprised to keep hearing about that elusive corner for years to come.

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

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