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Gaming Guru

Hubble Smith

Development: W Hotel Takes Sin City Spin

24 August 2005

Starwood Hotels and Resorts plan to make its W hotel in Las Vegas a flagship property for the upscale brand's "global footprint," W Hotels Worldwide's president said Tuesday while giving details about the $1.7 billion project.

The hotel at Harmon Avenue and Koval Lane will have a mix of 3,000 hotel and residential units, more than 10 restaurants and nightclubs, a 75,000-square-foot casino, 300,000 square feet of meeting space and a spa and gym, W's Ross Klein said. It's scheduled to open in 2008.

Klein said Las Vegas has been at the top of W Hotels' development strategy for years, ranking No. 1 or No. 2 on the request list of W guests along with South Beach in Miami, where a W Hotel is already under construction.

"It's also an opportunity for us to redefine and reinvent what an urban oasis is," he said. "The W in New York came into an urban environment with a different point of view. When you come in off the street in New York, it's a retreat, an escape. That's going to be the same design point of view we put into the W in Las Vegas."

Adam Frank and his partners at Edge Resorts started talking with Starwood about developing a W hotel in Las Vegas at the site of Bourbon Street casino on east Flamingo Road. Even after acquiring an adjacent apartment complex for a total of 8 acres, it wasn't enough land.

Edge Resorts sold the Bourbon Street property to Harrah's Entertainment last month and bought 21 acres at Harmon and Koval, including the existing Ice nightclub and two separate parcels from Fort Worth, Texas-based home builder D.R. Horton, for $108 million.

Edge Resorts entered a joint venture with Starwood Hotels and Resorts and will be a 75 percent owner of the W hotel. Starwood owns the remaining 25 percent and will manage the hotel.

"They wanted a bigger property and they really wanted to be on Harmon," Frank said. "Twenty-one acres really gives us a lot more flexibility to do what we want to accomplish. We want to build a destination resort, but at the same time, we want to have an intimate feel to it, that signature W feel with great night life and a blend of restaurants."

Frank said the project combines the hottest, most sought-after hotel brand in the world with one of the most vibrant hospitality markets in the United States.

"We really think that location is the future of Las Vegas," he said. "There's so much happening right around us."

With some $20 billion in planned development, from the Hard Rock Hotel expansion to MGM Mirage's Project CityCenter to the Palms' new hotel and condo towers, the Harmon corridor is poised to become a hip, happening location, Klein said.

"I think it's going to be a destination with a very specific offering, sort of a pop culture, and I think we're going to be sort of an anchor," he said.

W Hotel Las Vegas will offer guests "extraordinary experiences" at every turn through the brand's lifestyle elements, including indulgences and experiential surprises that will be unheard of even for Las Vegas, Klein said.

Klein said he expects the new resort to compete with the Hard Rock Hotel, Mandalay Bay, the Palms, Wynn Las Vegas and Four Seasons.

Deutsche Bank analyst Marc Falcone said it was important for W to finally land in Las Vegas.

"I think W needs exposure in Vegas given what the brand stands for," he said. "It's going to be a strong fit for Las Vegas. This is a very powerful location."

Condo-hotel and residential units will go on sale in the fourth quarter, priced from $550,000, offering a combination of poolside cabanas, studios and one- and two-bedroom condominiums, all attached to the W hotel.

Klein said the project is in the final stages of architectural plans and design reviews.

The first W hotel opened in New York in December 1998. There are now five hotels in New York and 20 more around the United States and worldwide with another 20 under development, Klein said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.