Friday, October 3, 2008

This Week's LVW Column: Flower Tower

Here's this week's piece, breaking a story of a prospective gay and lesbian hotel-casino and condo on the Strip.

Flower Tower
Vegas could be ready for a gay hotel-casino

Andrew Fonfa doesn’t want me to write this. He knows I have to, he knows I want to, but he also wants us to know that everything in this column is entirely speculative. This is a real-estate story, after all, and there is absolutely nothing in this awful real-estate era that is predictable.

Yet it’s also a story of a potential social revolution and, in that respect, cannot be ignored. If Andrew Fonfa and his lesbian sister, Gudren, pull off what they’ve long hoped and dreamed, they will have rocked the travel market and redefined a piece of Las Vegas in a profound way.

So let’s get right to it: The Fonfas want to build a $1.2 billion, 1,000-unit, 45-story hotel-casino catering primarily and openly to gays and lesbians and managed by the Wyndham hotel chain. It would boldly be called the Q, as in “queer.” And it would stand tall and proud by early in the next decade at the northwest corner of Sahara and the Las Vegas Strip as the first of its kind in the world.

Ordinarily, I wouldn’t cover something so iffy. I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the announced Vegas development projects that have died. And the Fonfas themselves insist this one may never come to fruition, either.

But they also have earned a certain credibility that makes what they say and do matter, having already built the 41-story Allure Las Vegas on the same corner as the maybe-future Q. The only other folks who have completed such condo buildings on the Strip are MGM Mirage and Trump, which puts the Fonfas in good company. And Andrew Fonfa, who is not gay, already operates a casino in Indian Springs and has owned the Sahara-Strip property for decades.

The Fonfas haven’t formally announced the Q plan largely because there’s no telling when the American credit market will dig out of its crater. But they’ve begun to quietly spread the word.

Read the rest HERE


Ray said...

I've been waiting for this for a long time. So much of the strip has a gay sensibility, it only makes sense to actually have a very gay-identified place. But I'm deeply concerned at a business level. First, if it's too gay-identified, it will be hard to get the volume of mainstream traffic needed to sustain it (the reverse Hooter's problem). Second, if they scale it to a sustainable size for the more boutique crowd, it risks being less attractive to gay visitors who seek the vibrance of the bigger hotel-casinos -- many of which are quite gay-friendly themselves. Finally, to attain and maintain a level of quality to attract discerning queers like me, they need to be ready to take on Wynn or the other high-end "hotel within a hotel" properties (e.g., THEhotel). And that's going to take a lot of money and a long-term committment. Don't get me wrong, I'd love to see this, but I'm skeptical.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with Ray. The idea of a hotel that is perposefully aiming at a sub group with the risk of allianating another group of potential customers is a huge risk. Las Vegas of today is not built on straight, gay or bi but on green (in this case a over a billion $ worth.)
It is about maximizing profit potential, if one wished to create a gay exclusive resort it would be cheaper to buy an exsiting hotel and land (Riviera, Sahara) then to start anew.

Troy from Las Vegas said...

Was thinking why not the north EAST corner of Sahara and LVB? I thought that corner was already zoned as that is where Ivana Trump was wanting to build.
Perhaps they own the land the Gift Store sits on?


no, troy, it's the land behind the gift shop, the fonfas have owned it for many years and they've already got the proper zoning.

Mike Dobranski said...

Man, I would think with Bette Midler, Cher, Elton John and the eventual return of Celine Dion that the gay community would just take over Caesars!

I'm from the outside looking in on this one, but if I were part of the gay community, I think I would rather have a major part of a mainstream resort. I would think that a more major advancement for equal acceptance would be to have clubs, entertainment, shops, and restaurants to be a natural part of a mainstream resort rather than have your own leper colony on the other side of the World's Largest Junk Store.

Am I just another straight white guy that is out of touch?


Troy from Las Vegas said...

Please bear with me, I am just trying to understand. So we are talking the area bordered by Cincinnati, Cleveland, Fairfield and LVB. Where that gas station is right? Or are we talking west of Fairfield where the houses are?


Troy: it's next to Allure. I have no idea what the other stuff you just said are, but it's behind the world's greatest gift shop, next to the Allure tower. But don't worry, I'll let you know when it opens. I just hope Heather isn't worried about how much you want the exact coordinates!!!

Troy from Las Vegas said...

No, I am just curious because "behind the world's greatest gift store" could either be a Strip frontage or on "Crack Street".
Crack Street is next to, or more specifically, behind, Allure.
Also behind the gift store, or just north of it, is where Diversity Tattoo and a gas station / mini market currently is.
Google Earth the area and you'll see what I mean.

mike_ch said...

Yeah, I toodle around the area Troy speaks of quite a bit, between riding the MAX from downtown and in the car we head around "crack street" to avoid driving on the Strip. The Allure already looks like it's in a bad area. I wouldn't be shocked if these Fonfa folks were simply promoting something to drum up interest in the area. Note that they're specifically targeting a demographic known for disposable income without giving any specifics on what exactly they're doing that's so unique.

Generally speaking, this town doesn't hate gays from what I can see. I am gay (though I don't mention it much because it's usually irrelevant) and while I'm not an adventurous person, I once helped an out of town friend score a nice hotel room with Ye Olde Upgrade Tricks and the guy running the computer didn't seem to flinch that two males showed up at the desk talking about a room with a single bed. It didn't even cross my mind at the time, which I suppose shows how much of an airhead I can be. Heh.

I think the most defining characteristic of Vegas as a city is that it's really really young. Regardless of what you think of it, most of the urban sprawl is all from the past 20 years. Cities this young don't need clearly gay restaurants or anything else that doesn't serve as a meet market, because that shelter of protection angle wasn't necessary.

It just seems like an unnecessary thing to me. If ARIA and Encore are going to charge as much a night as they hope to, then they better not care about the gender of who I'm sharing a room with.

mike_ch said...

Correction: In the above screed, I mistakenly referred to the Deuce as a MAX.

The express bus from the north to south ends of the city presently only exists in my dreams.

Carry on.