What I have come to call “The Big Blue Silo” is in the news again. The project that is currently referred to as “The Drew”, originally known as Fontainebleau Las Vegas, has come to a halt, again. Partially because of the COVID 19 shutdown of all things fun on the Las Vegas Strip, and partially because the owner has not been keeping up with his bills.
According to an article in today’s Las Vegas Review-Journal, three months after coronavirus turmoil shut off construction, contractors have levied more than $36 million in claims for unpaid bills.
The Drew owner Steve Witkoff had suspended construction of the blue-tinted 67 story skyscraper in the chaotic month of March when the coronavirus pandemic and an overreacting governor sparked sweeping business shutdowns in Southern Nevada. Witkoff, through a representative, says he hasn’t given up on the 67-story megaresort on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Of all the liens filed, records indicate the biggest one against The Drew is from the AECOM Hunt and Penta Building Group, a joint venture that was the project’s lead construction team. They initially filed a $29.4 million claim early this month but slashed it on Monday.
Steve Witkoff bought the tower in 2017, with plans to finish it off and to open it as a JW Mariott branded hotel and casino in late 2021 or early 2022. The blue-tinted resort has stood unfinished since the original developer pushed it into bankruptcy in 2009. At the time it was over 70% completed and they had over $3 billion invested in it.
Its tall tower shape and blue tint, for me, gave it the look (and the nickname) The Big Silo, glimmering in the Las Vegas skyline. Totally out of place with the rest of the other structures in the vicinity. Its emptiness and look of unfinished construction have served as a constant reminder of Southern Nevada’s wild real estate boom in the early 2000’s and the devastating crash(s) that followed.
Billionaire investor Carl Icahn bought the mothballed project in 2010 for around $150 million. Never really doing anything to it, he sold the Fontainebleau in 2018 for $600 million to Witkoff and Miami real estate firm New Valley. A nice Return on Investment!