Cruise the Strip between Spring Mountain and Sahara today and get ready to absorb the general mood of Las Vegas. There are modern, luxurious resorts on this stretch, along with some aging casinos and one iconic property awaiting resurrection. Things are happening, maybe even looking up, but along with the construction and promise, there are two massive plots of what might have been.
There’s no telling when the grim, imposing structures of Fontainebleau (originally planned to open in 2009) and Echelon (2010) will become anything other than painful reminders of terrible timing. But while these casino resorts won’t be gracing the Boulevard any time soon, many of the pieces and players planned for the two projects have found new homes in Las Vegas.
The dining lineup at Fontainebleau was to include a bevy of celebrity-chef restaurants, including Alfred Portale’s Gotham, Scott Conant’s Scarpetta and Jose Garces’ Amada. Scarpetta opened with the Cosmopolitan in 2010, and Conant debuted his D.O.C.G. restaurant concept there, too. The Philadelphia-based Garces, who owns restaurants in Palm Springs and Scottsdale as well as on the East Coast, said via email that while his Fontainebleau restaurant didn’t come to fruition, “I’ve always enjoyed my time in Las Vegas and would love to be a part of its vibrant dining scene.”
Hakkasan, too, was originally destined for Fontainebleau. Instead, it’s morphed into a 75,000-square-foot, five-level, mega-restaurant-nightclub that promises a big impact when it opens at MGM Grand this spring as a partnership between MGM and Angel Management Group.
Echelon’s intended dining and nightlife options are a little hazier, but the 87-acre CityCenter-ish endeavor on the site of the former Stardust would have featured Hotel Echelon and its 2,500 rooms as the centerpiece, rounded out by three other boutique hotels. They were
Shangri-La, a Hong Kong-based company now with no Vegas plans, and the Mondrian and Delano, two hip brands from the Morgans Hotel Group collection.
Vegas will get its Delano, set to open next Valentine’s Day. It’s taking the place of the current hotel-within-a-hotel at Mandalay Bay, where the Light Group continues to convert nightclubs and restaurants. No plans have been announced to change the current restaurant Mix atop the future-Delano tower, but anything could happen.
Echelon would have also hosted two performance venues operated by AEG Live, which books tons of entertainment at the Joint, the Colosseum and other local spots. AEG has booked at Brooklyn Bowl in New York, which expands to the Strip later this year at the Linq, but it’s unclear whether that relationship will continue in Las Vegas.