Progress, inactivity tell tale of two Vegas Strips - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU

Progress, inactivity tell tale of two Vegas Strips

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The Echelon (left), and Fontainebleau (right) remain unfinished on the strip The Echelon (left), and Fontainebleau (right) remain unfinished on the strip
A rendering of the Linq project by Caesars Entertainment A rendering of the Linq project by Caesars Entertainment

The closure of O'Shea's Casino to make way for a new entertainment and shopping district is the latest in what Las Vegas does best -- out with the old and in with the new.

The challenge is keeping up the demand, unlike the north end of the strip, where construction has become stagnant, and mainstays like the Sahara shut down after 59 years.

"There's absolutely nothing down here," said Richard Dapin, who is visiting Las Vegas from England.

More than locals are taking notice that progress just past Wynn and Encore has stopped.

Construction sites like the Echelon and Fontainebleau were once the place where dreams began. Now, they are surrounded by fences and covered with weeds.

"It's a dive. You see torn, flopping flags and things," said Ben Hicks, who is on his first trip to Las Vegas since he was a child.

But as one end struggles, the other side has a different story. Investors spent $925 million on active and recently finished projects, including the new Octavius Tower at Caesars Palace. Add to that, the new Linq project, which is slated for completion in 2013.

Jeremy Aguero, a principal at Applied Analysis said that fun is where the focus needs to be.

"The things that we're seeing along the Las Vegas strip aren't about building more hotel rooms, they're about building reasons to fill hotel rooms," Aguero said.

Currently, there are 150,000 rooms in Southern Nevada, and Aguero believes we need to see more than 90 percent occupancy before investors see a reason to build on the north end once again.

"They're spending so much money on these expensive places right (near Wynn and Encore), and on the same block, there's places kind of in ruins," said Clare Hicks.

"That hotel over there, the blue one, it was still being built two and a half years ago and it's still not finished," said Dapin, referring to the Fontainebleau resort project, which went bankrupt in 2009.

Aguero said the partially constructed, 700 foot tower is worth more for its salvageable value than its value as a completed project.

"I think there's some real development potential for that [location] over the long run, but not in the next five years or anything along those lines," said Aguero.

Tourists even pointed out several broken windows on the Fontainebleau tower as it ages without a tenant. Aguero believes the tourism industry has bottomed out, and is starting to come back. Just give it time.

"There's this natural evolution to the Las Vegas strip - that it's always kind of evolving, and sometimes that evolution looks like a partially completed Fontainebleau, and other times it looks like Wynn and Encore," Aguero explained, also pointing out that visitor volume rose last year, and there were more occupied hotel rooms than any point in Southern Nevada history.

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