|By Joe Schoenmann, Las Vegas
Aug. 03, 2011--Construction will begin this month on a $500 million mid-Strip development that will include a 550-foot observation wheel -- developers insist it not be called a Ferris wheel -- and a restaurant-entertainment district linking the Imperial Palace and Flamingo resorts.
Clark County commissioners approved the 18-month "Linq" project Wednesday, giving Caesars Entertainment the green light to break ground, said Marybel Batjer, Caesars Entertainment vice president of public policy and communications.
Design and construction of the observation wheel -- its 32 cabins will each carry up to 30 people -- will be a technical feat on par with the construction of San Francisco's Bay Bridge, Batjer said.
"This takes that kind of thoroughness," she said. "Only a few engineering firms in the world are capable of doing this."
The project also involves the "re-skinning" of the Imperial Palace and O'Sheas, giving the businesses new facades, and the creation of 326,000 square feet of retail, dining and entertainment venues between the Imperial Palace and the Flamingo.
Representing Caesars Entertainment before the commission, attorney Tabitha Fiddyment said the project will cost about $500 million and "completely change this area of Las Vegas Boulevard ... it's going to entirely revitalize it."
The project will employ 3,000 construction workers; when it's complete it will create 1,500 new jobs.
Asked why Caesars Entertainment is doing the project now, as Las Vegas and Nevada remain in the grips of recession, Batjer said reinvention is what Las Vegas is known for.
"None of us in Las Vegas ever sits on our laurels," Batjer said. "You continue to develop and bring new visions to this terrific place."
When finished, Batjer said the area between the resorts will become an urban gathering place akin to the Meatpacking District of Manhattan, Fulton Street in New Orleans and South Beach in Miami.
The Linq observation wheel is the second planned for the Strip. In May, developer Howard Bullock of Compass Investments broke ground in construction of a 500-foot-tall wheel across Las Vegas Boulevard from Mandalay Bay. Completion is expected in the first half of 2013.
Commissioners said they hope the Linq development is a "green shoot," signaling economic development will begin throughout the county.
"It will create thousands of jobs, both construction and permanent, and be another amenity on the Las Vegas Strip for tourists to visit and enjoy," Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. "It will also provide an economic stimulus to county revenues."
Commissioner Larry Brown added: "This project is another sign of growing confidence in the Las Vegas market. A $400 million investment, thousands of new jobs -- the type of commitment that builds tremendous momentum for our economy."
Project approval came a day after the commission voted to create a committee that will spend the next few months figuring out how to address a sense of disorder on the Strip, including how to keep it physically clean and dealing with a growing number of unlicensed peddlers crowding sidewalks and irritating tourists. The committee will consist of representatives from the district attorney's office, Metro Police, casinos and a handful of county agencies.
To see more of the Las Vegas Sun go to http://www.lasvegassun.com
Copyright (c) 2011, Las Vegas Sun
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit www.mctinfoservices.com.