Derek Stevens Land Buy Opens Up Possibilities for Downtown Vegas

While Vegas-watchers had their eye on a classic neon sign, Vegas Vickie, coming down on Fremont Street, they missed news of much greater significance.

Derek Stevens, owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new resort on its way to the former Las Vegas Club site (referred to as “18 Fremont”), recently closed a land deal that opens the door for dramatic changes to downtown Las Vegas.

Stevens purchased a site known as P/Q, part of Symphony Park. Here’s a look at the parcel from a perspective you know you’re only going to get on this blog.

PQ site Derek Stevens

Pretty much the first dirt lot that’s ever made us giddy. Just keep reading.

Symphony Park is a rather nebulous name for a district downtown Las Vegas has long had high hopes for. Symphony Park home to The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Discovery Children’s Museum and Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health.

The roughly 6.4-acre site sits behind the Plaza casino, not far from another parcel Stevens purchased in October 2016. That parcel sits between the Plaza and Main Street Station casino. Vegas-watchers missed that sale, too. Hey, we do what we can.

Here’s another look.

The more you know about the latest land purchase, the more intriguing the possibilities become.

Here’s a useful map to help sort out what’s where. At left, the latest acquisition. The land in the center, next to Plaza, will be used for parking for the new resort at 18 Fremont. The new casino at 18 Fremont will be connected to the parking structure by a bridge.

Derek Stevens land purchases

Remember how we kept calling the purchase next to Plaza casino “strategic”? We’re not just randomly typing words, you know.

Derek Stevens has shown he has a vision for his business ventures and downtown Las Vegas, so it’s not surprising these purchases aren’t random.

For now, the new parcel will serve as a “laydown” yard during the construction of 18 Fremont, a place for construction materials to be delivered and set out before being used in the resort. The lot next to the Plaza would seem to be a good staging area, but it’s expected a parking structure will be built simultaneously to the new resort, so the P/Q parcel will serve that purpose.

Several trailers are already in place at P/Q, and those will be offices for the companies doing demolition and construction on the 18 Fremont project.

18 Fremont laydown yard

Stick with us and we’ll help you impress your friends with terms like “laydown yard.”

But, wait, there’s more.

It’s interesting to note the site purchased by Derek Stevens is the only parcel in Symphony Park zoned for gaming.

That’s worth repeating. The land recently recently purchased by the owner of The D, Golden Gate and a new casino resort at 18 Fremont is zoned for gaming.

If you’re thinking that’s the point in our story that gets us giddy, you’d be right.

While plans for the land, beyond its utilitarian use during the construction of the 18 Fremont project, haven’t been specified, there’s no denying it’s a strategic move and one that could very well mean much, much bigger plans are in the works.

But, wait, there’s more.

In all the plans for Symphony Park, a 61-acre district that stalled during the economic downturn, the parcel abutting the P/Q lot has been slated for a sports arena or, most recently, soccer stadium.

Plans for a stadium have not taken off, but if such a stadium came to pass, it would mean Derek Stevens, his brother and business partner Greg Stevens, and their company, are in the best possible position to take advantage of that development and any resulting boom in business.

downtown arena

Let’s just say the Stevens would probably not be disappointed if someone built a stadium 15 feet away from their newly-purchased site.

If you look closely at that map, you’ll see the P/Q site was previously supposed to be the Forest City Casino-Hotel. The best laid plans and all that.

But, wait, there’s more.

We’ve learned Stevens’ company has invested millions in lobbying efforts toward to the creation of a new off-ramp that will lead from the nearby U.S. 95 freeway directly into W. Ogden Ave.

Apparently, the lobbying has paid off because the off-ramp project is happening.

That’s right, the road that runs along the P/Q site, past the parking structure next to Plaza and right to the back door of the new 18 Fremont hotel and casino. You can see Ogden emerging from a tunnel to the left of the shaded area (the parcel owned by the Stevens), below.

Stevens parcel

Maybe we just like putting shaded areas on things.

Freeway off-ramps are powerful and transformative things, and have helped shape the economic futures of more than a few American cities.

All this from a land sale that’s flown largely under the radar. Until now. You’re welcome.

Full disclosure: Our day job is in digital marketing at Fremont Street Experience, the marketing arm of a group of casinos, including The D and Golden Gate. Our opinions are our own.

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  • jammyjo

    This borders on investigative journalism. You OK Scott? I wish Mr. Stevens success if he means to bring back a little of the old Vegas where hospitality wasn’t extended based on a spreadsheet. The Strip is going in a new direction I don’t like.

    • Ha, thanks. Yeah, it’s been an interesting few weeks. Some stories I’ve gone after and some have fallen in my lap.

  • AccessVegas

    Since I live downtown adjacent (Oakey and Valley View), I’m all for more cool stuff that is a $8 Uber ride away. I agree that with the direction The Strip is going, FSE and DTLV are poised for big gains. However…

    So many people have a mental block about just going from FSE to Main Street Station. (I know, I’ve talked to them). Here, you are going to have to create something seamless over/under the major rail line. With the permission and blessing of the railroad.

    Will people be adventurous enough to get over to it? They won’t cross the freeway to hit Rio. They see Palace Station (one mile from SLS) as something in no man’s land.

    Once again, I’m not at all dissing on the project. I hope is gets built and is a huge hit. Challenges exist.

    • Coop

      You are completely correct. Being from Detroit I fear nothing. However when my wife and I walk Fremont to Cal / Main Street it is like a scene from an apocalyptic era.

      • wanker751

        Use hyperbole much? Walked there any hour of the day… it’s fine…dont be a pansy

        • Coop

          If walking through urine. Passing 10 zoned out people and being offered heroin is your idea of a good time go for it. Me… I cant wait for change!

          • Well, further development would be down the road, and probably accompanied by other development that would create an overall less questionable experience.

          • Denvergary

            I have made that walk numerous times during the day and night and the most I have ever been asked for is change. And if you think you’re walking along a clean path on Fremont, you need to look down every now and then.

      • Bouldersteve

        Its not that bad. Sure you have step over a few passed out homeless but they are harmless unless you step on them instead of over. If you think that walk is bad go check out East Fremont past Container Park.

    • BiYawnIc

      I’ve lived in Vegas for so long I’ve become cynical. I can’t stand the thought of anything being developed/built which adds to congestion or population.

      That said, to address your comment…. 1) There’s already an over-the-railroad tracks pedestrian walkway from a parking structure (@ Main and Clark) to The Smith Center. I don’t think anyone uses it — but it’s there. 2) An attractive, underground walkway/shopping mall is certainly feasible (ala MGM’s route from casino to parking structure). Or perhaps moving walkways or trams.

      Again, the thought of anything being developed in Vegas makes me ill. I long for the old days of a population of 300K — and no traffic. Alas, que sera, sera.

  • Kevin Rackley

    If I were the Plaza, I would feel a bit encircled right now.

    • Coop

      The Plaza is in desperate need of a make over before this excitment hits.

      • Steven Brown

        It’s been close to 6 years since they reopened after the renovations and I know when I stayed there back in 2013, the furniture in the rooms was already beginning to look a bit rough in spots. With PlayLV only having to focus on the Plaza these days, they’ve been working on updates and upgrades to the property. The rooms will likely be renovated within the next few years.

        • Funkhouser

          Competitive pressure will force the Plaza to stay in step with it’s neighbors, unless of course it wants to be the bargain basement of downtown hotel rooms. Look at the Cal overhaul, the Plaza can’t sit on it’s heels for too long.

        • Mike L

          I’d be happy if it just didn’t smell as bad. They have that awful pungent cheap perfume scent pumped throughout the casino and the hotel seems to have a lingering sewage smell. The furniture that they used seemed rather “Ikea-ish”, so no surprise that it’s showing early signs of aging. The furnitiure at Downtown Grand seems similar.

          • JeffinOKC

            I recall that the furniture at the Plaza and Downtown Grand are the same. It was originally bought for the Fountainebleau Las Vegas, and was sold by Carl Icahn as a bargain rate after he bought it out of bankruptcy. I think stuff like flooring, fixtures and paint went the same way.

  • RustyHammer

    I’d get excited about all this, but the possibility of a new casino property on P/Q is years away, at the earliest. It’ll seem like eternity until the 18 Fremont site opens up, so that makes any development of P/Q at least eternity plus five years away.

  • Funkhouser

    This feels like much to do about nothing. Land purchases in a soft market are always a good investment. It makes sense putting a parking area over in this space to service employees and hotel guests, This could open up any adjacent property to 18 Fremont support future hotel tower development. Steve Wynn and Sheldon’s history show you can never have too much land for employee parking needs near your resort. Lastly I give the chance of a professional soccer team in LV as zero %. Soccer growth in America has failed in cities much better positioned to support a team then Vegas. The Stevens got a piece of land that will serve them handily for 18 Fremont that’s all, now lets move along folks.

    • Coop

      Here in Detroit they have spoken about soccer arena for years. If Illitch, Karmanos and Dan Gilbert cant get it done here in a “soccer city” maybe its not plausable. Derek Stevens is a genius. He knows better. Pool, Pool and more Pool please. Ask the Downtown Grand. If it wasn’t for that awesome pool and free money (freeplay oops) I would not have loved it. Fremont is about to enjoy a big boom in business. Thanks to the Stevens brothers!!

      • Funkhouser

        Sometimes, buying land and sitting on it is a good plan. Carl Icahn has made a career out of buying distressed assets and land to squat on them for years, latter turning a profit. With acre costs growing in the Valley, the Stevens brothers could sit on this parcel, leverage it for working capital based on estimated valuation, and turn a hefty profit. Land acquisition isn’t always about future development.

  • EnuffBull

    “Note to self,” I say into my idea-generating tape recorder, “Step one: acquire lots of land. Step two: Flatbread Casserole World. Step three: count my money.”

  • Congratulations for breaking another big story.

    • Thank you. I have no idea how the local business outlets didn’t dig this up. The records are public.

  • eaglejohn

    Is this the reason Derek is keeping the Mermaids Casino license open with the one day trailer for gambling?

    • Steven Brown

      18 Fremont is the reason why Mermaids and the former Las Vegas Club will have a visit from Trailer Station, as those properties are zoned for unrestricted gaming and in order to keep that zoning designation, they have to have gambling there once every two years.

      This newly acquired parcel is zoned for unrestricted gaming, but has never had a casino located there.

      • eaglejohn

        Yes but Derek only needs one license for 18 Fremont. The other could be for that parcel

        • JeffinOKC

          I can’t imagine Mermaids had an unrestricted gaming license. I thought that required 24 hour food service, hotel rooms and table games; none of which Mermaids had. Maybe it was grandfathered in from the 30s or 40s?
          Hey, I just realized that Stevens now has both of the Sundance locations! Al Sach’s Sundance East became Mermaids, and The D opened as the Sundance.

          • Steven Brown

            There wasn’t a casino at that location until 1956 when the Silver Palace opened.

          • Bouldersteve

            Grandfathered is right.Sometime in the sevenites things changed with the gaming licenses.Anything built before was grandfathered.Mermaids was built on land that was grandfathered Its the land not the building that get the zoning

        • Steven Brown

          It’s about ZONING, not licenses. In order to retain the unrestricted gaming designation, any parcel that is zoned for unrestricted gaming has to have gaming onsite once every two years. The company that will be conducting the gaming at the former Las Vegas Club and Mermaids is United Coin, and will be done on their license. If a site that is zoned for unrestricted gaming does not have gaming on it every two years, it loses that zoning and the owner has to try to get it rezoned.

  • Steven Brown

    Given the timetable for the 18 Fremont site, we’re at least 5-7 years from anything being built on the new land.

    There was a time not too many years ago in which Oscar Goodman wanted to see the Plaza torn down and Fremont Street extended into the Symphony Park area. At one point when he was Mayor, he called the Plaza an eyesore. So when he opened up his restaurant there, it was a bit of a surprise.

    • Interesting. I mentioned that long time horizon to Derek, and he sort of grinned. I had the distinct feeling he’s got something up his sleeve. One factor nobody really talks about is that the land has to be cleaned up if there’s going to be development, to the tune of $7 million or something.

  • Cheri Hoffman

    Last year we did the stroll where we tried to hit every casino in the downtown area… We didn’t complete that but it didn’t bother us to do the walk from Fremont Street to main Street station Street dark… Sure it could have been better.. But was but that bad…I just wish that the downtown area works truly go back To old Vegas… It’s all beginning to be just the strip….I myself along with friends would be there more often but the rates are going sky high.. The food is the same way. I have no issue with going to Hugos matter fact one of my favourite places… But even they are relaxing and being to casual… And why? The is Vegas feel… Where you had the high end… Great prices for lodging and better buffet prices.. Allowed for funds to enjoy more gaming… Great shows that didn’t break your bank.. To be able to truly get it all.. So whatever he does..I hope he takes a good soul search.. And brings that world back… And with it so improve the plaza… Work on the lighting for when you go the back casinos…. Put dress codes back in force…I think the ability to really matter a huge profits go thru the roof for them.

    • RustyHammer

      I would try making a time machine out of a DeLorean

  • Bouldersteve

    The big reason nobody has developed that land is because access is limited due to the railroad tracks..Without the planned road infrastructure improvements i doubt Stevens would have made this investment

  • Dean

    Brothels should be legal in Clark County wihtin 5 years. This plot of land would work perfect for Derek to hire some ho’s and become the Dennis Hof of downtown.

  • David Spitzer

    Maybe Mr. Stevens should concentrate his efforts into putting a restaurant back in the Golden Gate. How long ago did DuPars close?

    • Several months. It’s not that easy to find the right restaurant partner, especially if it’s your only restaurant.

  • REGION-RAT

    Maybe the Stevens brothers may eventually purchase the Plaza and own the end corner of Fremont. Would possibly make sense if an arena/stadium is eventually built.