- The long delayed Fontainebleau Las Vegas hotel and casino is expected to open in Q4 2023.
- The current owners of the project gave an update and a timeline to media earlier this week.
- The project dates back to 2005 has been through five different ownership groups and several name changes.
I once negotiated a business deal walking around the north end of the Las Vegas Strip with an associate of mine. As we talked numbers, we surveyed progress on two under construction hotel casino properties–Boyd Gaming’s Echelon Place project on the site of the former Stardust Hotel & Casino and the Fontainebleau Las Vegas right across the street.
This happened in early 2008. Neither property ever got built, at least in their original incarnation. Boyd Gaming’s Echelon Place had barely started development when construction was halted during after the implosion of the Las Vegas real estate market. The lot would sit vacant for years with little more than the foundations of several buildings completed. In 2012, Boyd Gaming decided to sell the Strip front property and in March 2013 they announced that it would be purchased by Malaysia based Genting Group. On the same day, Genting would announce plans to build Resorts World Las Vegas on their newly acquired piece of real estate. The tentative opening date for the first phase of the project was 2017. That didn’t happen either–the project went through years of delay and revision before it would finally open in June 2021. Resorts World Las Vegas quickly became one of the most popular destinations in the Las Vegas market.
The Fontainebleau wasn’t quite as fortunate and to this day sits at nearly 75% of completion at 2777 South Las Vegas Boulevard. The history of the property could fill an entire book but I’ll give you the broad strokes. It was announced as Fontainebleau Las Vegas in 2005 with the intention of making it a sister property of the legendary Fontainebleau Miami Beach. The original owners (Fontainebleau Resorts) began construction in February 2007 with the hotel tower topped off in November 2008. The property had gone well over budget which led to the financing banks cutting off funding. In June 2009, the project went into Chapter 11 bankruptcy despite being 70% to 75% complete. In 2010, Carl Icahn bought the property out of bankruptcy but never restarted construction. In fact, he never planned to finish the project and sold many of the furnishings, wallpaper and tile to the Plaza Hotel & Casino in downtown Las Vegas and the Buffalo Bill’s casino in Primm. Icahn listed the property for sale in 2015 after doing little more than a few cosmetic improvements.
For awhile, the prospects of the property began to look up after investment firms Witkoff Group and New Valley LLC bought the project in August 2017. For awhile, it was referred to in documents filed with Clark County as ‘Project Blue’. The new owners worked to line up financing behind the scenes and after brokering a partnership with Marriott International announced plans to complete the project under the new name The Drew Las Vegas giving an opening date of Q4 2020. In early 2019, Witkoff announced the opening would be delayed until Q2 of 2022 and then pushed back to Q4 2022. Construction was suspended in March 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and during the hiatus several contractors filed liens for unpaid work totaling in the millions of dollars. In addition, the executives that had joined the Drew project were laid off and once again the future of the property was in doubt.
In February 2021, one of the principals of the original ownership group–Jeff Soffer–bought back the project through his company (Fontainebleau Development) in a partnership with Koch Industries. Initially, Marriott remained part of the project with the intention of renaming it as the JW Marriott Las Vegas Boulevard with an opening scheduled for October 2023. This plan didn’t last long and a few months later Marriott left the project via ‘amicable agreement’ and the proposed name returned to Fontainebleau Las Vegas with the announcement that Fontainebleau Development would manage the hotel itself.
LIGHT AT THE END OF THE TUNNEL FOR THE FONTAINEBLEAU LAS VEGAS
This brings us back to the present–earlier this week, Fontainebleau Development announced that construction will resume with the opening scheduled for late 2023. The property will be completed using what is essentially the original design though plans for a retail mall have been scrapped. Developers now say that the property is 75% complete which is consistent with how others have described its status over the years. Here’s how a press release from the developers outlined the immediate future of the property:
Fontainebleau Development, which designs, builds, owns, and operates premier hospitality, commercial, retail, and luxury properties, is targeting fourth quarter of 2023 for the opening of its recently acquired 67-story, vertically integrated luxury resort and casino at 2777 S. Las Vegas Blvd. The property has commenced construction and will open under the name Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a monumental expansion that brings full circle the company’s longtime vision of hosting its iconic brand on the Las Vegas Strip.
Fontainebleau Development Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Soffer alluded to his long history with the project in his press release comments:
“We are grateful to have the opportunity to finish what we started and finally introduce the iconic Fontainebleau brand into one of the world’s largest hospitality destinations. We have been extremely selective when it comes to expanding our brand. Las Vegas has always been our number one choice.”
Jake Francis, President of Koch Real Estate Investments, gave his thoughts on the Fontainebleau Las Vegas:
“Our goal at Koch Real Estate Investments is to partner with best-in-class management teams that have the drive and vision to bring unique solutions to each community in which we have a presence, and we’ve done that here with the Fontainebleau Development team. Our partnership was forged from our combined belief in Las Vegas, not just as a destination but as a global brand where people from all over the world come together to enjoy world class venues, entertainment, and nightlife.”
Fontainebleau Development President Brett Mufson spoke of the resiliency of the Las Vegas market:
“The Las Vegas tourism industry has shown incredible resiliency throughout the last two years, and we believe our target opening date allows us to perfect our vision while positioning Fontainebleau Las Vegas for success in a new era of growth and visitation. This represents not only an investment in real estate, but also an investment in the community, and we look forward to having a positive presence and impact on Las Vegas for generations to come.”
As of now, there aren’t many specifics about the project though the company said that they will ‘announce additional design and development partners in the coming months’. For now, here’s how they’re describing Fontainebleau Las Vegas:
Fontainebleau Las Vegas is a vertically-integrated, luxury 67-story hotel, gaming, entertainment, and meeting destination scheduled to open fourth quarter of 2023. Created by Fontainebleau Development, who designs, builds, and operates premier hospitality, commercial, retail, and luxury properties, in partnership with Koch Real Estate Investments, Fontainebleau Las Vegas brings full circle the company’s longtime vision of hosting its iconic brand on the Las Vegas Strip. Located at 2777 S. Las Vegas Blvd. adjacent to the acclaimed Las Vegas Convention Center expansion, Fontainebleau Las Vegas will feature more than 3,700 uniquely designed hotel rooms, more than 550,000 square feet of convention space, and a world-class collection of restaurants and shops, pool experiences, vibrant nightlife options, and coveted spa and wellness offerings.
You can check out the Fontainebleau Development website here:
Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak is confident that the property will actually get finished this time around:
“This group that they’ve assembled certainly have the financial wherewithal to do that. I’m confident that they’re going to do that.”
Personally, I’m ‘guardedly optimistic’ about the Fontainebleau Las Vegas. The current principals definitely have the money and know how to make it happen but much like Resorts World every long time Las Vegas resident is in ‘wait and see’ mode. I definitely hope they get it done–the Fontainebleau Miami Beach is one of the iconic hotels in the United States and I’d love to see the brand and their design aesthetic in Las Vegas.