Caesars giving Gansevoort $185 million transformation

When the folks at Caesars Entertainment Corp. and W.A. Richardson Builders are done turning the former Barbary Coast/Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall into the Gansevoort Las Vegas next year, the Strip’s old- timers won’t recognize the building.

You can include Michael Gaughan in that group.

The owner of the South Point built and opened the Barbary Coast in March 1979 on 1.7 acres at the northeast corner of the Strip and Flamingo Road. The space, which housed a dilapidated motel, was so tight that Gaughan had to get special permission from Clark County to put four floors of parking atop the first-floor casino and below the three-floor hotel.

“No one ever did that before,” said Gaughan, who later wiped out one floor of parking to add 50 more hotel rooms.

As part of the $185 million transformation of the Gansevoort, a portion of the second-floor parking area at the front of the building will house a 300-seat restaurant operated by television food personality Giada De Laurentiis. The dining room will offer guests spectacular views of the Strip, including the Bellagio fountains and Paris Las Vegas’ Eiffel Tower, through floor-to-ceiling windows.

Since closing Bill’s in February, construction workers have gutted the eight-story building from top to bottom. Hotel rooms have been stripped to their bare minimum and the 17,200-square-foot casino space and public area are now a clean slate.

Other than the shape of the building and some of the outside architectural enhancements, the Gansevoort Las Vegas will little resemble its past. The casino is not expected to increase in size.

Construction workers are adding three floors to create Drai’s Beach Club and Nightclub, a 65,000-square-foot rooftop pool area overlooking the Strip. Nightclub developer Victor Drai is managing the rooftop development. The basement level Drai’s After Hours will continue to be a part of the Gansevoort.

The Gansevoort Las Vegas will have 188 newly designed rooms and suites.

Caesars Regional President Eileen Moore, who oversees the Flamingo, Quad and Gansevoort properties, said the small hotel will focus on hospitality for a luxury market.

“This will be the first true luxury boutique hotel on the Strip that is not located inside another facility,” Moore said. “That sets it apart for the customer who is looking for a boutique stay in the heart of the city.”

Caesars Entertainment will operate the Gansevoort while the New York-based hotel group, which operates boutique hotels in New York City’s Meatpacking District, on Park Avenue and in the Caribbean resort islands of the Turks and Caicos, is providing design and marketing help.

Construction is in full swing with two shifts.

The redevelopment is scheduled to open in early 2014. Caesars Director of Leisure Services Melissa Fielding said the Gansevoort will retain two pedestrian entrances off the Strip: one at the corner of Flamingo Road, the other near the Flamingo hotel.

Gaughan was constricted by space limitations when he built the Barbary Coast. He eventually acquired two additional acres as surface parking for employees.

Caesars, however, owns the land east of the building toward Audrie Street, where a three-story garage is being built for self- and employee parking. A tunnel will connect the garage with the building.

The spiral ramp that led into the building’s parking area has been demolished. The Gansevoort ground floor will extend eastward to make way for the hotel lobby, a retail area, a fitness center and the porte cochere. A new parking ramp is being constructed along the north side of the building to access the original garage in the tower housing valet parking.

Gaughan had planned to add another four floors of hotel rooms and amenities to the Barbary Coast, which he built at a cost of $11.5 million. But he said the hotel-casino made so much money he never bothered to increase the footprint.

“The business out of the Barbary paid for the Gold Coast, it paid for The Orleans and it paid for the Suncoast,” said Gaughan, who sold Coast Casinos to Boyd Gaming in 2003 for $1.3 billion. “It was a great little boutique place.”

Boyd Gaming operated the Barbary Coast for several years before swapping the hotel-casino to Caesars (then-Harrah’s Entertainment) in 2007 for 24 acres next to the Stardust that became part of the Echelon land parcel. Harrah’s renamed the casino Bill’s Gamblin’ Hall that year.

Gaughan said he built the building to withstand earthquakes and other natural calamities.

The steel footings, box springs and foundation were oversized so the building could support 12 stories, including a parking garage.

Gaughan said he’s glad the footprint he created will be used for the Gansevoort.

“They never would have been able to implode that building,” Gaughan said.

Contact reporter Howard Stutz at hstutz or 702-477-3871. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.

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