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Best of Liz Benston

Gaming Guru

Liz Benston

Looking in on: Gaming

5 December 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Harrah's Entertainment has delayed announcing details of its center-Strip redevelopment plans, pending a potential deal to take the company private. But officials aren't sitting on their hands.

The company's proposed 1,017-room hotel tower at its Caesars Palace flagship is scheduled to go before the Clark County Commission on Dec. 20 for approval. Also proposed is a nearly 150,000-square-foot building to replace the Roman Plaza with casino space, restaurants, retail stores, bars and convention areas.

The convention center at the south end of the property also would grow.

Before dismissing these plans as just the latest baubles to be shoehorned onto the property, consider that Harrah's has still grander goals across the street, with the makeover of Barbary Coast, Flamingo, Imperial Palace and Harrah's casinos.

Harrah's spokesman David Strow said all the plans will be unveiled at once, likely next year.

• • •

Also moving forward is Boyd Gaming Corp.'s $4 billion Echelon Place, which has won design-review approval from the County Commission. It is about the same as the original proposal of five hotel towers and roughly 5,300 rooms. The approval includes the option of converting up to 1,000 rooms in its Delano and Mondrian-branded hotels to condominiums, although spokesman Rob Stillwell said the company still has no plans for condos and only included them in the plans for the sake of flexibility.

Boyd bosses initially nixed condos, citing concerns about overbuilding and demand for pricey digs. But condos can make expensive projects easier to finance. For example, MGM Mirage hopes to raise $2.5 billion selling condos at CityCenter, offsetting that project's $7 billion price tag.

County planners said Echelon Place's back side along Industrial Road will have an appealing "pedestrian realm." But they warned that the project's main entrance is destined for major traffic snarls unless the company redesigns it for better pedestrian access.

Meanwhile, Echelon business partner Morgans Hotel Group has received Planning Commission approval to upgrade the Hard Rock Hotel, which it plans to own by January. The County Commission will vote on the plan Dec. 20, which would allow the New York hotelier to build a 349-room hotel tower and more than 200,000 square feet of casino, retail, restaurant and convention space. The low-rise building will be built atop the property's surface parking, with some parking to be added underground. Morgans also plans to expand the Hard Rock's existing restaurants and add on to its parking garage on the north side of the property.

• • •

And wait! There's more!

Station Casinos received County Commission approval for Durango Station at Durango Drive and the Las Vegas Beltway.

Phase one will feature 400 rooms, a 120,000-square-foot casino, movie theater, banquet hall and pool areas. A second phase will include a 600-room tower, entertainment center and expanded banquet facility.

Station is mum on when it plans to break ground on Durango Station, and it may not happen for years.

Farther down the valley, the Southern Highlands Resort Hotel - a Tuscan-inspired upscale resort planned by real estate developer Garry Goett at St. Rose Parkway and Las Vegas Boulevard - received final design approval from the County Commission for the project's first phase.

Construction of about 1,400 hotel rooms and a nearly 120,000-square-foot casino (slightly bigger than the original plan) is scheduled to begin by mid-2007, with completion by fall 2009. While that's a bit later than developers initially stated, they are still bullish on a future phase with another 1,000 hotel rooms and as many as 800 condo-hotel units.

Looking in on: Gaming is republished from