Economy:

Abandoned projects leave lasting reminder of economic crash

The unfinished Echelon and the Fountainebleau Hotel and Casino sit vacant on the Las Vegas Strip Thursday, April 1, 2010.

It wasn’t long ago that hotels, high-rise condominiums and massive retail and office complexes sprang up in Southern Nevada seemingly faster than one could drive from one end of the valley to the other. Take that same drive today, though, and you’ll likely see vestiges of the Great Recession: partially built structures with exposed foundations or steel beams — or building wraps to hide the evidence — that represent dreams put on hold.

Many mothballed projects face an uncertain future, signs their owners either don’t have the money to complete construction or don’t think the economy has recovered sufficiently to make them viable. Some have also been mired in litigation. Here are prime examples:

  • Echelon

    The planned $4.8 billion Boyd Gaming Strip resort remains in limbo nearly three years after the company decided in August 2008 to halt the project. Taking up 87 acres that was once home to the Stardust, Echelon was supposed to open last year with nearly 5,000 rooms spread over five hotels, along with a casino, convention space and theaters. But as with many projects, Boyd found it tough to obtain the financing to complete construction. After the work stoppage, Boyd estimated it would delay Echelon’s development for three to five years, but there has been no recent update on its status.

  • Fontainebleau

    There is arguably no greater symbol of the valley’s economic struggles than the unfinished $2.9 billion would-be Strip resort that became the nation’s largest commercial construction project to go bankrupt. Snapped up by financier Carl Icahn at a U.S. Bankruptcy Court auction last year for a mere $150 million, one gaming analyst has said it could be at least 2015 before the 63-floor, 3,815-room hotel opens. In a sign of the times, some of its prized furnishings were sold to other hotels.

  • Harmon

    Planned as a 49-story building at CityCenter with a 400-room hotel taking up 28 floors, topped by 21 floors of condos, MGM Resorts International announced in January 2009 that it would build only the hotel portion. The announcement followed reports of major construction flaws, including substandard concrete and steel rebar work, throughout the building. But Perini Building Co., the general contractor, alleged that design problems also were to blame. The Harmon remains unoccupied, facing an uncertain future. But MGM found that the Harmon could possibly attract tourists to CityCenter by wrapping the shuttered building with arrows and bold letters stating: “The center of Las Vegas is just around the corner.”

  • ManhattanWest

    The 21-acre mixed-use development on Russell Road was to feature more than 600 condominiums in an 11-story tower and in midrise buildings, along with 200,000 square feet of shops, restaurants, hotel and office space. But with the project under construction, it was announced in December 2008 that it was put on hold after financing was cut off. The dispute turned nasty with Gemstone Development, a bank, a motel company and other parties embroiled in an ongoing lawsuit in District Court in Clark County that involves allegations of fraud. It will take the court to sort out the mess before the future of ManhattanWest is known.

  • Mercer

    In summer 2008 JDL Development was proceeding with plans to erect 113 condominiums on Tropicana Avenue near the Las Vegas Beltway, having begun work on the exterior frame. A year later, though, all that was left was the concrete foundation and underground parking after the developer determined that the condo market had turned sour.

  • Parkline Lofts

    It was announced in 2006 that Parkline Lofts would build a three-story building with 65 condos at Basic Road and Pacific Street in Henderson as part of a downtown redevelopment project. But the recession prompted the developer to cease construction the following year after the foundation was built.

  • Shops at Summerlin Centre

    The planned mixed-use development just south of Red Rock Resort at Charleston Boulevard and the Las Vegas Beltway was to open in fall 2009 with Nordstrom as an anchor tenant. But developer General Growth Properties ran into major financial troubles, forcing it to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization. Caught in the middle was the partially built development, whose construction was halted in 2008. The company emerged from bankruptcy in November, and one result was acquisition of the mall project by Howard Hughes Corp. But the project’s status, including 1.5 million square feet of retail, office and condominium space, remains up in the air.

  • Spanish View Towers

    This development near the Las Vegas Beltway and Buffalo Drive was supposed to have three 18-story luxury condo towers, totaling more than 400 units. Work started in 2005 but stopped a year later after the underground parking garage was partially built. The downhill slide for the project continued in 2007 when Tower Homes, which was accused of not paying its bills, went into bankruptcy. The property was purchased in 2009 by its financiers, OneCap Mortgage and Realtor Jack Woodcock, but never progressed further. Individuals who placed nonrefundable deposits on Spanish View condo units but claimed they were duped into signing sales agreements for what turned out to be a doomed project reportedly reached a settlement in May.

  • St. Regis Residences

    Las Vegas Sands Corp. announced in September 2008 that it would build 398 luxury condos between the Venetian and Palazzo and that the private homes would open by March 2010. But steel beams were barely in the ground when the company, citing the tanking economy and a slumping condo market, halted construction in 2008. The incomplete project is camouflaged with a wrap intended to make it look like a finished product. Even if the wrap comes off, and no timetable has been announced for that to occur, it is not certain whether the structure will be completed under the St. Regis brand or whether units will still be used as condos, Las Vegas Sands spokesman Ron Reese said.

  • Uptown

    What is supposed to be a three-building complex with 75 condominiums on Centennial Parkway in North Las Vegas remains partially built four years after its first residents moved in. Blue Marble Development purchased the distressed property but is waiting for the economy to rebound before completing the project.

  • Vantage Lofts

    Slade Development in 2005 introduced to the southwest corner of Gibson Road and Paseo Verde Parkway in Henderson the concept of “minimalist modern” residential units that were priced to sell from $400,000 to $1.6 million. A selling point was a sweeping view of the Strip. But by 2008, the $160 million project was only partially built and boarded up, yet another victim of a battered housing market.

  • Wyndham Desert Blue

    A 19-story time-sharing high rise on West Twain Avenue at Dean Martin Drive near the Rio achieved mothball status when work stopped on the project in February 2009. Wyndham Vacation Ownership had expected to open the first 281 condominium-style units in early 2010 but shifted its priority to other projects, putting Desert Blue on hold. The Clark County Zoning Board last year gave Wyndham until May 2013 to revive the project.

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  1. Work on Echelon continues. Slowly, yes, but it continues. If you were to have taken monthly time-lapse photos of the buildings off the Industrial Road side of the property, the progress would be obvious.

  2. Aaah, work on Echelon continues? You got to be kidding? Check and see what city your in James? :)

  3. I concur UTE. Excellent points. Unfortunately, the parallel between these massive projects and the myriad of foreclosed homes is significant. Many of the creditors, bankers and non-local investors that are either holding the bag or snapping up these properties have little to no motivation or requirement to take the basic steps to mitigate the impact on the surrounding areas.

  4. Aliante Station probably would have been highly profitable if there wouldn't have been the crisis. All the land around Aliante has remained desert but would have been filled with homes, shopping centers, gas stations, restaurants, etc. And now the Aliante sits all alone in the middle of nowhere...
    And the Echelon site will probably remain like that for the next 10 years. Wouldn't be a great idea to make it a "crisis museum" to remind the world what too much debt making of the society might lead to ?

    From Switzerland

  5. In my opinion, both Echelon and Fountainbleu are doomed regardless of how far into the future they remain empty and idle. Considering the massive megaresorts brought online in recent years, Echelon and Fountainbleu are TOTALLY NOT NECESSARY and NOT WARRANTED. The only saving grace for a 3 to 6 year opening is to radically scale back on the original design and amenities; of course, Foutainbleu is more committed (building already completed) than Echelon but scale back / scale down is yet possible.

    No matter what action is taken, I'm sure the snail-paced recovery of the gaming community will dictate the opening of the above named venues. Yet, I wish them both the best... as middle-roller establishments.

  6. Yes, work on Echelon continues, just as I described it. Next?