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April 20, 2014

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Answers: Clark County:

Facelift, or just a mask? County pondering what to do about Echelon Place site

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Jae C. Hong, AP

Decay becomes us: A new local book looks at decomposition dead on.

Clark County Commissioners will have a chance to weigh in on one of the Las Vegas Strip’s modern-day eyesores. Whether that means the eyesore will get a facelift is anybody’s guess.

Which one? Fontainebleau? Echelon Place?

Echelon Place. Boyd Gaming, which owns the 80-plus-acre plot that was supposed to be home to five high rises, 5,300 hotel rooms and a $4 billion price tag — think CityCenter but just a little scaled down — stopped construction in 2008 when the economy tanked.

Now, Echelon is a skeletal monument to the wild-eyed development that swept across Las Vegas in the mid-2000s. Of course, that fell apart when the housing bubble burst and, well, you know the rest.

Well, is it an eyesore or a reminder to remember that if something appears too good to be true, it typically is?

It’s a reminder, sure. But the Strip is no place for an empty, hulking mass of steel and concrete.

What do commissioners have to do with it?

Boyd is asking for a second extension of time for three use permits and one design review. The company wants extensions until 2018. County staff recommends giving the extension of time “given the current state of the economy.”

Extensions of time are rarely denied. But couldn’t commissioners, scheduled to consider the item Wednesday, make the extension conditional, asking Boyd to cover the thing up with one of those mega-stretchy plastic coverings? Something classy. You know, something beyond your standard Vegas advertisement for female revues or male strippers.

Click to enlarge photo

Chris Giunchigliani

As a matter of fact, Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, whose district includes the property, has been working with the owners on just such a project. She said negotiations in the development agreement and a design for beautification of the site had not been finalized, so the issue will likely be postponed for a few weeks.

“It will involve landscaping, a wrap of some kind, something to beautify the front end,” she said.

•••

North Las Vegas’ money problems are on the minds of everyone in government, chiefly because no one wants to be forced to take on the city’s debt and services.

Could North Las Vegas’ problems become the problems of other governmental bodies, such as Clark County?

It could, but it wouldn’t happen right away. Carole Vilardo, Nevada Taxpayers Association president, said if the city couldn’t pay its debts, an orderly process codified in state law would go into effect.

First, the state Committee on Local Government Finance would get involved and examine the city’s books. If that committee announced a financial emergency, it would make a recommendation to the state Department of Taxation on what measures would need to be taken to balance the budget.

What kind of measures?

Raising taxes or fees. Cutting staff. Mothballing facilities. Whatever it takes. But even that’s not an immediate thing. The Department of Taxation is also required to hold public hearings before making any moves. So realistically, if North Las Vegas can’t prove it will balance its books, it could be several months before measures are taken.

•••

The AM/PM on Charleston Boulevard on Wednesday advertised gasoline at about $3.73 per gallon, one of the least expensive prices in the valley. Ever wonder how low the price would go if you could buy in bulk and you were a governmental body?

On Tuesday, the County Commission will consider the purchase of 100,000 gallons of 87 octane gas from Rebel Oil Co. That gasoline, enough to power all county vehicles for a year, would be $327,200 under a deal to be considered with Rebel Oil Co. That would make the per-gallon price $3.272. The last time gas here was that low, on average, was February 2010.

Rebel Oil beat out one other bidder, Thomas Petroleum, which bid $344,770.

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  1. Here's an idea. Since Echelon is already a tainted brand (being a failure on it's own as well as being associated with City Center and it's financial troubles by proxy), why not just reconfigure the entire property to integrate the existing construction, and rebrand the whole thing as "The Stardust"? It's a proven brand, Vegas nostalgia is, and always will be very high, and it would allow Boyd to scale back the amount of money needed to invest into the property. The remaining empty space can be paved over and have some strip mall shops with souvenir shops and fast food joints until they expand the property further in the future when they could just bulldoze that over. It also would allow for an additional revenue stream. People want to see The Stardust. They don't care about overloaded and over-hyped and played-out "ultra lounge" douchefication that so many Vegas resorts have gone through. Get rid of the choco-appletinis, luxo-spas, & useless bottle service. Get back to good games and steak & cigars and the people will flood back in. People love "Old Vegas" if for no other reason because it allows you to kick back in a lounge with a cocktail and have actual conversation rather than having to bribe street-thugs in some club where your ears bleed from the base of hip-hop so you can't hear anyone.

  2. Even before reading any comments, I had the same thoughts as DMC and BOMAC.

    Recreate the Stardust, bring back a new version of old school, but I like the idea of open space, parks etc, too.

    More could be present in addition to open space but make it special in some way.

    There is a real opportunity here to make a statement.

    Don't have it resemble CityCenter, which is an eyesore and a blight on the boulevard in my opinion.

  3. Cover the damn things in a nice non-political canvas until they re-start construction. That blue behemth (sp?) is an eyesore along with the construction cranes.

  4. I reread DMC's comment and it's dead on the money.

    Listen up, Boyd management!

  5. Echelon has no connection to City Center in any form or fashion.

    Two completely different companies that are not connected in any way.

    Landscaping and covering the framing would be a great idea for now. No use spending billions at this point to just lose money until Vegas comes back more.

    Boyd did the right thing by pulling the plug when their partners did not come through with their portion of the project. Betting they saved the rest of the company by doing what they did. Now to make the best of it.

  6. I don't think they need to do anything different. It's a stalled project, it's their money, and they took the hit for the expenses already spent on the deal....they should be able to extend it as much as the law will allow until they're ready to develop something that's good for THEIR investment....not OURS. This is a publicly traded company, not a government.

    The Stardust is long gone. I fondly remember all of the old properties in Vegas, but the reality is that we must let go of these things...that business model is outdated and does NOT provide the highest ROI anymore. It's better to have a shell of concrete and steel than to recreate some old business model that will appeal to deal-seekers and old people who won't spend enough money to make a profit off of it....just ask the Sahara & Riviera how that business model works. If it was such a great idea, downtown would be thriving and making money hand over fist right now....yeah right, it's dead people.

  7. I think Boyd Gaming is one of the best managed and financially conservative gaming companies. I think they live here and have built their lives in Las Vegas. Bill Boyd went to grade school (and up) here and had dedicated his life to working to make Las Vegas better. (As a cub lawyer, the owner of the Sahara hired him to get the name of San Franscisco street changed to Sahara)
    I am convinced that if there were ANY way for them to use the existing land, structure, or any combination thereof, that wouldn't cost so much money that it wouldn't possibly show any ROI for years and lead to a shareholder revolt, they would go for it! These are smart people running the company, and they would love nothing more than to put something there that could make them anywhere near to any profit, it just can't be done.

  8. vegaslee, I cannot see that anyone inferred Boyd had any connection to CityCenter.

    The inferences seem to have been for Boyd Gaming to not create a monstrosity LIKE CityCenter.

  9. Again, here's another instance of the Clark County Commissioners worried about the little stuff.

    "Oh, my gosh, this hurts, my eyes, my eyes, they hurt from looking at this, we must do something."

    First it's dogs on Las Vegas Boulevard.

    Then it's going after every superhero, superheroine, and costumed character on the Strip, along with the nefarious super villains, those "porn slappers."

    Now, it's eyesores.

    How come we have elected officials that are only interested in getting their carcasses elected by making up a crisis every week?

    And not concentrating on important stuff like jobs, corruption and the economy?

    What's next?

    Oh. Wait.

    I can predict what it's going to be.

    Probably cigarette butts and curb smoking on the Strip.

    Or making Las Vegas Metro PD and the Clark County Firefighters to all wear the same colored underwear.

    Knock off the polite police crap all the time, County Commissioners. How about working on important stuff.....