The D's Expansion Plan
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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