News Release About The Drew Contains Glorious Amounts of WTF

It’s been so quiet at The Drew, formerly the Fontainebleau, we were delighted to see a news release from the resort’s owner, Witkoff Group.

Our delight didn’t last long, because we actually read the release. Cue the tsunami of WTF.

Tsunami of WTF, we should mention, was our band name in high school.

So, it seems Witkoff wanted to announce it has hired a design architect, Diller Scofidio + Renfro. Which seems dangerously close to math, but we’ll let it slide this time.

Diller Scofidio + Renfro is apparently a well-known firm, despite the fact they seem to have misplaced their comma. (Elizabeth Diller and Ricardo Scofidio are two different people.)

The firm has been tasked with “realizing a fresh vision for the next integrated resort on the north Strip’s emerging luxury corridor.”

So much to unpack, and we’re one sentence in.

First, as we mentioned, The Drew is the former Fontainebleau. Fontainebleau was about 70% complete when it was abandoned in 2009 due to dipshittery.

“Fresh,” then, is a relative term here.

Fontainebleau wrap

The wrap doesn’t really help.

“Emerging luxury corridor” may be stretching it a bit. This is the north Strip. Circus Circus is the hotel’s closest neighbor, with SLS a third of a mile north. Resorts World is emerging, slowly, but that hardly qualifies as a corridor.

Given the area’s string of bad luck (Alon, Wynn West, All Net Resort), “crushing disappointment corridor” might be a more fitting label.

This is where the news release gets epic.

Charles Renfro, lead designer of the Drew, adds, “The team’s design approach was inspired by the multiple ecologies of Las Vegas itself—the dynamic and rugged beauty of the Mojave Desert, Las Vegas’ early adoption of modern architecture, and the city’s enthusiastic embrace of spectacle. The Drew will weave these seemingly contradictory conditions into a new quixotic environment.”

Apparently, the Mojave Desert is teeming with peyote!

But wait, there’s more.

“We are incredibly excited about being part of the Las Vegas landscape. Robust demand drivers continue to create an imbalance of hotel inventory supply and demand. The Drew is poised to not only capitalize on this imbalance, but also offer visitors a new marquee luxury resort with a distinctive, compelling concept. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for our team and our partners,” shared Steven Witkoff.

We really missed the boat by not naming our band Robust Demand Drivers.

Witkoff

We’re just sharing the logo. You’re on your own with the snark.

All due respect, but Mr. Witkoff clearly doesn’t place much value on clue-having as he seems to believe demand is outpacing hotel inventory in Las Vegas. Las Vegas visitation is down, bro.

If there’s an imbalance, it’s that there’s too much room inventory, which is likely one of the reasons The Drew’s opening has been pushed back two years.

This little gem was tucked neatly at the end of the news release: “With a confirmed opening date in the second quarter of 2022, Drew Las Vegas has also kicked off its sales efforts to group customers. The initial response to the 3,780-room resort has been overwhelmingly positive as groups look for new ideas and a fresh perspective.”

“Confirmed”! Because if you say it in a news release, it has to be true.

There’s so much off-the-wall in this announcement, it’s hard to keep track of it all.

The reality is this project doesn’t have financing in place. That’s because you can’t really get financing unless you have an architect as part of the pre-planning and budget process, and Witkoff just hired this one.

Two years after Fontainebleau was purchased.

Two years.

To hire an architect.

The first thing on a developer’s to-do list.

A story in Bloomberg says, “By delaying, Witkoff will have more certainty about his construction budget.”

Like we said, you can’t get financing unless you know what the budget is.

Fontainebleau wrap

There’s no great angle. We’ve tried.

The thing they didn’t mention in the release is it’s likely this isn’t the first architect Witkoff has hired for The Drew. We’re thinking the first firm drew up some plans, ran some numbers and they didn’t make the cut, so don’t let the door hit you on the way out, architects.

Also not in the release are the specifics of challenges related to giving a makeover to an abandoned building exposed to the elements for years.

The latest cost estimate for making The Drew a thing is $3.1 billion. With a “b.”

Never fear, though. Witkoff says Goldman Sachs Group and Deutsche Bank have been hired to raise additional capital. It’s complicated.

Remember, Las Vegas was built on optimism and whimsy! The Drew seems to have an ample supply of both.

The truth is while we’re more skeptical than ever The Drew will become a reality (we’ve heard the property may still be flipped), we’re rooting for it to succeed.

From the day we broke the story of Fontainebleau being sold, we were onboard for something, anything being done with the hulking blue eyesore.

Fontainebleau Las Vegas

We are obligated to share this fake billboard whenever we talk about this place.

There’s a chance in a few years Las Vegas visitation could warrant thousands of rooms coming online. There’s no denying Drew’s proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center, with its $935 million expansion, could make it more desirable to investors.

We can’t wait to hear from Steven Witkoff when The Drew, with it’s unfortunate name, opens. “Suck it,” Steven Witkoff will say, and we will feel ashamed for ever having doubted him and his comma-challenged architectural firm.

For now, we’ll watch and wait and wonder at how such smart, rich people can read and approve news releases that make them seem so, well, rich.

23 thoughts on “News Release About The Drew Contains Glorious Amounts of WTF

  1. Tom

    May the Fountainbleau / Drew forever stand in its half-baked, half-completed state as a great monument to all things post millennial Las Vegas – greed, incompetence and idiocy.

    Reply
  2. Kevzilla

    “Quixotic environment.” Since three sets of developers have been tilting at this windmill for ten years, I’ll allow it.

    Reply
  3. Ben Goro

    The Drew will easily cost 6 Bn to complete. It is 30% complete, not 70 as the fanboys would have you believe. Much of the tower is a wreck and needs to be redone. A good portion was stripped after the bankruptcy. There is major water, theft and vandalism damage in the tower and lower levels. One of the reasons BofA pulled out was because an independent audit determined that it was going to cost 3+ Bn to finish. This cost was partly due to the need of having to tear out completed work by a couple of contractors. Now, that work is multiplied.

    Reply
  4. Vegas Insight

    I have no special Vegas Insight, but my hunch is that not only does “The Drew” not open, but this shell of a building doesn’t, either. I’m a big believer that 10 years of abandonment will take more than spackle to fix. Maybe in 3-5 years the demand for a major tower, with an established footprint, will warrant the billions it will take to spackle and finish the shell, but I’m betting $5 somebody will eventually pull a Harmon at the site.

    The Drew, or whatever it will be called in 3 years, is going to be the 10th wonder of the world.

    OMG, my ears are bleeding, and I only read Scott’s summary of the press release.

    Reply
  5. Father_Time

    Do “robust demand drivers” rip you off like taxi drivers who take you through the tunnel? I still prefer Uber.

    Reply
  6. MV

    DS+R is a great firm… they’re out of the box thinkers and could bring something exceptional to the Las Vegas market… Witkoff is an interesting developer and also has a different angle on the Vegas Experience. Having said that, the fast and hard realities of Vegas will judge the project quickly and decisively once it’s open. Looking forward to more.

    Reply
    1. Greg M

      Agreed. Just implode it and put in a Tam O’Shanter. The North end of the strip is never coming back. I hope this becomes a teaching era in history that the whole “bulldoze it and make something bigger” thing is over! The Stardust, Riv, and even Westward Ho, could have been updated and fixed. The heyday of over-the-top, grandiose hotels is over. I predict a big giant THUD for Resorts World. Lucky Dragon was just a preview.

      Reply
  7. Anonymous

    DS+R is some major firepower for Las Vegas. Probably the most prominent architect since Gehry did Ruvo. Vegas isn’t exactly known for hiring good architects (Cesar Pelli notwithstanding at Aria). I suspect Ian schrager’s involvement has a lot to do with it. Ian is a tough nosed operator and world class designer who has a (exceeds) Wynn level attention to detail and I could easily see him backing out of witkoff didn’t build to his specifications. He keeps a tight leash over his (Marriott’s) Edition brand which is scheduled into the project.

    Also you have to understand the difference between design architect and architect of record. The AOR is likely a local vegas firm like Steelman or Friedmutter experienced in casino design. You could get a budget from them. Design architects do just that. They create the pretty picture and then the local architects who are licensed here make it build able and accept the liability. Yea technically a design architect would be hired first but not always. Especially with people inexperienced in this sort of project. Just speculation but they could’ve gone to a local firm first like Alon did and then found the local firms ideas not enough to satisfy someone like Ian and made a change. Ian DOES NOT work with anyone not of his own choosing and he has the reputation to demand it. Just some thoughts.

    Reply
  8. Nick

    Like one of the above posters mentioned you wouldn’t need a big name architect to come up with a budget. Any resort experienced local firm would get you in the ballpark and there’s three or four who do these all the time. All the NY firm does is provide creative direction, re-style the building and act as a major marketing opportunity. They’re clearly not going for Venetian’s guests. They’re going for people who know who DS+R’s is and care, which is a market share that maybe only Wynn competes in. Vegas architecture tends to be lowest-common denominator, generally terrible (a giant LED Earth?!) and appealing to people who don’t know better or care, so the shift toward capital A Architecture could signal a shift of market focus and a bit of a leap of faith. Sometimes it works out, as it did with Arquitectonica designing Cosmo and bringing a Miami/urban feel to Las Vegas. With City Center bringing in people unfamiliar with gaming created something that feels more like an airport dropoff than the high concept MGM touted.

    This is not the first time a gaming company has teamed up with a celebrity architect. Sands did it years ago at the Marina Bay Sands and MGM of course at City Center to varying degrees of success. Melco had Zaha Hadid do their newest Macau hotel Morpheus and even Steve-less Wynn has partnered with a celebrity architect for their upcoming projects as well. All three are likely to use big name designers for their Japan pitches, but in all those cases its more about styling the building, big ideas and marketing. Since the Drew already exists the technical requirements of finishing the project and re-skinning the facade are more of a budget line-item unless they plan on doing something crazy or dramatically different than what’s there, which I doubt. You’re likely not talking about a billion dollar difference to the project. There’s no way Diller Scofidio and Renfro are touching the interior spaces in any meaningful way. That would be a rookie move and John Unwin should know better after having to fix the mistakes at Cosmo. The interior fit out, besides Ian Schrager’s Edition Hotel will likely be someone local or someone who has a lot of casino experience — you just can’t get that wrong. Hell Palms had a bunch of vets on that job and they still have issues. Also I wouldn’t sleep on Schrager’s involvement. He’s a huge get for Vegas and besides being the guy who created very idea of a boutique hotel, is the original nightlife impressario who crated Studio 54 back in the day. They might have something up their sleeves for nightlife.

    Reply
    1. MV

      SLS was a colossal turd with boutique design and big name recognition surrounding it… City Center for all its ‘StArchitecture’ isn’t widely loved or profitable… I wouldn’t get too excited until we see what DS+R / Witkoff reveals, but I’m hopeful . DS+R’s work leans conceptually towards performance and spectacle; potentially a perfect match for Vegas… but realization of these projects often reveal little more than a styling excercise. For what it’s worth, Capital A architecture can only survive on the resort corridor of Vegas as long as it’s profitable and there’s much more that goes into that formula than design alone.

      Reply
  9. Brandon

    I very much want this place to become a reality, and I very much want it to be called anything but The Drew.

    Terrible, terrible name.

    Reply
  10. Rooster

    FountainDrew…”With a confirmed opening date in the second quarter of 2022″

    OMG!!!! My sides!!!

    Too funny.

    Reply
  11. Suspicious Steve

    I smell PR damage control in play. Scott’s blog article about the horseshit press release and big dreams for a weathered/incomplete tower is randomly read by people who not only know the architectural industry, but conveniently want to blow wind up DS+R ‘s skirt?

    Doesn’t look suspicious at all.

    Reply
  12. Don DiMartio

    Failed at the top of the last market crash…now starting over again at the top of this upcoming (way overdue) market crash.

    This hollow shell is going to haunt Vegas for 20 years.

    Reply
  13. William Wingo

    I agree with other posters that the published cost estimates are low. No inside information, but I’ve seen a couple of YouTube “urban explorer” videos of the interior, and it’s obviously going to need a lot of work. It could be almost like the Maxim-Westin Casuarina conversion–and we know how that turned out.
    For comparison, in 1989 Mirage went over budget and cost $630 million; and in 1998 Bellagio, at the time “the most expensive hotel ever built,” came in at $1.6 billion. Now it’s going to cost over 3 billion just to refurbish FountaineDrew? And that’s the low estimate?? As Scott might say, “Double WTF.”
    Maybe if Mr. Icahn is through with Caesars by then, he could buy it back; sit on it another ten years; and then sell it again.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westin_Las_Vegas
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Drew_Las_Vegas

    Reply

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