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North Strip Renaissance Failing to Take Shape | Business

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North Strip Renaissance Failing to Take Shape

LAS VEGAS - During the boom years, developers, hoping to cash in on Las Vegas, made big bets on the north end of Las Vegas Boulevard.

"There was a lot of construction, but nothing really happening on this end," said Houston tourist Lorenza Shaw. The promise of a north Strip renaissance never came to a fruition. "It's a disappointment, it really is, but what are you going to do," asked New Jersey tourist Natashia Hicks.

Boyd Gaming's multi-billion dollar Echelon project sits idle on the land of the old Stardust hotel. The development is on hold until market conditions improve.

Up the boulevard, the Fontainebleau stands empty and unfinished. Construction halted last year when lenders cut off $800 million in financing for the project.

Elad IDB intended to build a $5 billion replica of New York's Plaza hotel on the site of the old Frontier. But, the land stands empty.

MGM Resorts planned to build a high-end resort on land across the street from the Sahara, but the company suspended those plans for now.

Across the street, Ivana Trump wanted to build a high-rise condo project on the former site of the Holy Cow restaurant. Her plans fell through, and an empty building inhabits the land.

This week, the Riviera filed for bankruptcy protection. In its bankruptcy filing, Riviera executives wrote that vacant lots and uncompleted projects are giving few tourists reasons to venture north.

UNLV Center for Gaming Research Director Dr. David Schwartz says it's a sign of the times. "We have more and more capacity on the Strip, and we have fewer and fewer people coming," Dr. Schwartz said. "So, it's going to take really a rebound in the national economy, more people having more money."

But, a Texas developer's vision could be the savior the north part of the Strip needs. He wants to build the Silver State Arena at the old Wet-n-Wild site and claims to have an NBA team under contract to move to Las Vegas. "Any type of sports team is going to attract crowds," Houston tourist John Shaw said. "You'd have a seasonal, and I guess on the nights of the games, a very time-specific influx of people, which will probably help a lot of the surrounding casinos and hotels," Dr. Schwartz said.

The arena plan still faces hurdles. Some public financing may be needed. Plus, there is no guarantee a sports franchise would come to Las Vegas even if the arena is built.

While the north Strip has struggled, the south Strip has flourished. A major expansion is underway at South Point. CityCenter opened in December. And, the near $4 billion Cosmopolitan is accepting room reservations for its December opening.

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