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The D's Expansion Plan

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 10th October 2013 7:21pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 11


Last week The D's owner Derek Stevens purchased the now vacant Clark County Courthouse. The seven story building, constructed in the early 1960's and vacated in 2005, sits catty corner across from The D directly behind Four Queens on an entire city block. The parcel is bordered by Casino Center to the north, Carson Avenue to the east, 3rd Street to the south and Bridger Avenue to the west. Somewhat surprisingly the auction attracted no competing bids, enabling Stevens to seal the deal at the "Buy It Now" price of $10 million dollars.

Hall of Justice

That Four Queens ownership TLC Enterprises balked on bidding for the property cements the belief that TLC is operationally handicapped. How often does an entire city block of undivided, super ultra mega prime location directly adjacent to ones "flagship" property come on the market at bargain basement prices? Never. TLC dropped the ball, even if they didn't want the property, they should've made The D pay for moving into their back yard.

Is there any surprise here? With non-competitive, aging rooms at Four Queens and a perpetually mothballed hotel at Binion's, it is clear that TLC is minimally interested in hotel operations in the properties they already own, nullifying by example any discussion of further expansion. TLC has an entire tower of hotel rooms (and the globally known Binion's brand) generating zero revenue per square foot above the ground level.

An active, growth minded operator would've renovated and opened Binion's hotel by now... laying the hurt on weaker neighbors and possibly making The D and Downtown Grand's Fifth Street Gaming further weigh decisions to expand or open. Instead, TLC stood still, letting Four Queens and Binion's hotel offerings age as neighboring properties redoubled their efforts with upgraded offerings.

It isn't 2007 anymore. Fremont Street isn't the sleepy, sad and slightly pathetic ghost town it was a decade ago... its roar has grown so loud the city had to invest in crowd control barricades, curfews and heightened security. Demand for downtown hotel rooms is pushing room rates to triple digits and beyond. Can TLC really afford NOT to upgrade Four Queens and reopen Binion's hotel tower? The rising tide raises all boats, right? Even those in dry dock?

In chess as in casino neighborhood real estate, the player who controls the center of the board, controls the game. Steve Wynn turned the Golden Nugget into a downtown standard bearer by upgrading offerings and expanding into surrounding property. Were it not for Golden Nugget's completion of the Rush Tower in late 2009 (built behind the former Pioneer) current owner Landry's may have considered expanding southward into the courthouse parcel.

This leaves Derek Stevens and The D as the only logical choice - other than a well heeled zillionaire with a penchant for building well lit high bandwidth rec centers targeted at the angel investor asskissing set - to take advantage of one square city block of prime developable real estate.

But what would Stevens do with a funky municipal courthouse? Well... shit, that's easy.

Hall of Justice

The Hall of Justice Hotel & Casino

Where it is Saturday morning all the time. Covered tack to trim in primary colored stippled comic book sans where Marvel meets Lichtenstein. Superfriends with Benefits Comp Club, Aquaman (seafood), Court (nightclub), Bread & Water (cafe), Jail (ultrabar), Hackers (internet cafe), Truth, Justice and The American Way (steakhouse). Couple this with a rough & tumble soundtrack by Johnny Cash, AC/DC, John Lee Hooker, Snoop Dogg and other whiskey drinking jailhouse jams and real live blues bands playing on the casino floor. Can you imagine the rooms? Red, yellow, blue, orange, green. Superhero bathrobes? OMG.

Derek Stevens stated in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the existing property would be demolished to make way for an expansion of The D.

The Hall of Justice idea fun while it lasted.

So what does The D need? More hotel rooms, particularly suites and digs for higher rollers. A pool deck ripe for partying / nightlife, cabana suites, boozing and carousing... the current pool at the D is by my calculations slightly larger than a '74 Dodge Econoline, we'll test this at VIMFP. Adding more hotel rooms means more mouths to feed, livers to destroy and places to park cars.

I've sketched up two possible scenarios, taking into account nearby buildings for privacy, volume reasons as well as the path the sun takes when shining down on pool guests (rising to the right and setting to the to left).

Hall of Justice

The "privacy" version. The pool deck is mostly hidden from surrounding office buildings which would contain prying eyes and deflect some of the sounds of an active daylife pool deck back towards the Fremont Street Experience. A bullnose on the north east corner could either be street level or, more optimally, be a bridge connector to The D. Street level space in the east hotel wing could be used for hotel corporate offices, street level mixed use, hotel amenities like spa/salon or an internal shopping promenade. Parking deck is located in the base of the south wing of the tower along with a VIP hotel entrance.

Hall of Justice

The second, is the "open" version. The parking and hotel rooms are located as close as possible to the existing D. The pool deck is positioned to get the most amount of sun with dining/booze/spa buildings tall enough to provide some degree of privacy from southern neighbors. The north wing of the hotel could be all suites and luxury lanai apartments at the upper levels. Cabana suites (a la HRH) would ring the base of the hotel towers on the pool deck. The pool would be surrounded by various bars, restaurants and even a spa.

What the D has is intimacy, personality and an non-pretentious attitude that no amount of money can buy on The Strip. Pairing this with 4 star and above amenities could pole vault The D to an entirely different league of Las Vegas hotels and solidly make it the epicenter of Downtown Las Vegas for the next 20 years.

Tagged: the d   courthouse   four queens   golden nugget   fremont street   derek stevens      


Comments & Discussion:

Interesting. I've got possibilities for how the vertical stacking could go as well, which could create some seriously interesting spaces between partying, gaming, and staying.

Some good ideas here, too

What they really need is a name that isn't a common euphemism for penis. Something like "tallywhacker" or "trouser snake".

The Bridger Building is an eyesore, though it might be mod-60s ala some downtown LA buildings if it wasn't that nasty shade of teal-blue. However, it's loaded with asbestos, and renovating it was expected to cost half of what Stevens paid for the building.

I don't know what's in that southwest corner of D, but I'm guessing it won't be redeveloped into something you and I walk around very soon. D's parking garage is so cramped that it borders on dangerous (thanks to being directly under half the hotel tower), so a new garage wouldn't hurt.

I love seeing the D expand (ooh accidental euphemism). If there is one thing DT has positioned itself as, it's a true alternative to higher prices on the strip, with an expanded GN like property things can only get better. Derek S. has a real opportunity here to build something with a modern strip feel and establish his place as the high end of mid range joints. If I'm Landry's I'm very concerned.

If the D adds a spa with workout facilities, I'd give serious thought to making it my home base downtown rather than the Golden Nugget.

"catty corner"? I always thought it was "kitty corner". Is this another American/Canadian thing. Liek we still use the 'u' in lotsa words (honour, colour etc) or am I just dumb. Maybe I'll stump Dr. Dave with it in a few days.......

I thought the correct spelling was "cattywampus."

could be interesting; the revival of downtown is a good thing

Very good points regarding TLC Enterprises. They may be ripe for a takeover in the near future. It wasn't too long ago that the owners of some of the parcels the Four Queens and Binion's sit on (and pay rent on) were threatening foreclosure proceedings because TLC was behind in rent on those parcels. I was in Vegas about the time the news of Binion's shuttering their hotel tower came out and earlier in the weekend, the word from some of the staff was that it was for renovations. At this point, we're nearly four years into the closure of the rooms and other than some rumors, nothing has happened in regards to getting those rooms back open. More than likely, Terry Caudhill just can't get anyone to loan him the money needed to renovate the rooms, and that may be because of the financial issues both the Four Queens and Binion's faced several years ago. There are too many current operators in Vegas that may be able to swing a deal to acquire the Four Queens and Binion's. Boyd maybe, but I just don't see them doing so, as opportunities to acquire properties Downtown have presented themselves in the last decade.

The only issue with the old courthouse site is access to The D. You just don't see that many diagonal pedestrian bridges.

A mixed used development is probably the best course of action in regards to expanding The D. Have ground level retail and restaurants that cater not only to the hotel's guests, but also those who work and/or live Downtown. I could also see a brand new showroom space as part of the expansion as well. Any expansion project is probably a year or two away from starting and 3-4 years from completion.

Seems to me that the smart move would be for TLC to sell the Four Queens to Stevens and use the money to renovate Binion's. Binion's is the most underutilized square footage downtown IMO, and could easily hold every slot machine, table game, eating and drinking outlet that currently exists in both properties. I think the Mint tower is able to take a cost effective remodel and the Horseshoe rooms are low enough in number that the total gutting and making 2 into 1 required wouldn't break the bank.

Hell, I think Caudill could move everything into Binion's, keep the hotel closed and make MORE money than he does currently with two properties.

This would give Derek & co. the chance to build the Double D and not have to mess with that tittie-corner bridge idea anymore.

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