The Drew Las Vegas owner says he’s still moving forward with bringing the longstanding Strip eyesore to life, and is targeting a fall 2022 opening for the towering 67-story blue structure.
New York businessman Steve Witkoff was before the Nevada Gaming Control Board (NGCB) Wednesday to update the state on The Drew’s progress, and receive the board’s recommendation that he be issued a license to operate the resort once complete.
This is essentially a high-end renovation job,” Witkoff explained. “It’s in preconstruction today. We’ve essentially X-rayed the entire building.”
Witkoff acquired the vacant, unfinished Strip property from Carl Icahn for $600 million in August of 2017. The billionaire investor purchased the asset in bankruptcy for $156 million eight years earlier.
Witkoff says the total price of The Drew will top $3 billion. Financing, he says, is in place to complete the property.
Formerly known as The Fontainebleau, the Strip resort was first conceived in 2005 by Fontainebleau Resorts and billionaire Donald Soffer’s Turnberry Associates. The project was halted because of the Great Recession, and the property has sat roughly 70 percent complete since the fall of 2009.
Icahn had no plans to complete the project, and instead held it as an investment vehicle. However, Witkoff says the property remains in great condition, and that’s a credit to Icahn, who reportedly paid $10 million a year to maintain the resort.
“Kudos to Icahn,” Witkoff told the NGCB, which recommended he be licensed to operate a casino. The Nevada Gaming Commission will consider the recommendation and final approval on January 23.
Witkoff says The Drew, when finished, will feature 3,780 rooms. He’s optimistic regarding the Las Vegas hotel market, and specifically his property’s location to the Las Vegas Convention Center. Witkoff plans to build a bridge traversing Elvis Presley Boulevard to connect pedestrians with the resort and convention complex.
Just south across the Strip from The Drew is where the $4.3 billion Resorts World complex is being built. It’s scheduled to open in the summer of 2021.
What’s in a Name?
Witkoff named The Drew after his son, who died in 2011 of an OxyContin overdose. Witkoff was naturally emotionally distraught after losing his son, and said he went to a medium for help.
Witkoff explained the medium told him he would be visited periodically by his father and son in the form of two black birds.
I never thought I’d be the type of person who would ever go to a medium,” he told the NGCB. “I went back down to Miami where I have a home, and I’m on the golf cart with my girlfriend and she’s eating potato chips. Two black birds landed on that cart and they grabbed two potato chips. And that was it for me.”
Witkoff later named subsidiary companies of The Drew Two Blackbird Holdings and Two Blackbirds Hospitality Management.