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Derek Stevens is one of the biggest property owners in downtown Las Vegas these days.
With his brother, he owns The D Las Vegas Casino, the Golden Gate, Las Vegas Club and the former Mermaids and Glitter Gulch. All of them under the canopy of the Fremont Street Experience.
Those properties include one contiguous block of Fremont. That makes it two entire blocks that the Stevens' family owns downtown. The first block contained the old courthouse, which Stevens bought for just $10 million in 2013. He has since turned that into an outdoor music and entertainment venue.
But what are his plans for that block in the Fremont Street Experience? For the first time in many decades, downtown Las Vegas could be on its way to doing something casino owners on the more famous Strip have stopped doing: building a new casino.
“We’re planning on taking this entire city block and really doing things from a clean slate basis and we think that there are a few unique elements that we’re going to bring into a new hotel-casino resort and that’s what we’re working on,” he told KNPR's State of Nevada.
He wouldn't give details on what the project except to say things will start in August and the project will have some "unique features" and it was something his team is excited about.
Stevens said he's happy to stay where he is downtown and has seen the area grow in the years since he first started there.
“I think what you’re seeing downtown is a culmination of a lot of work that happened maybe five, six, seven years ago," he said, "It’s kind of paying off.”
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority estimates about 22 million people visited the Fremont Street Experience last year. That's about half of the total number of visitors to the Las Vegas Valley.
Stevens attributes that to the unique experiences visitors get downtown.
“The Slotzilla zip line and what Fremont Street Experience has done it’s really a game changer,” he said. He has an entertainment venue of his own. The Downtown Las Vegas Events Center. He said more and more visitors to Las Vegas are here for experiences they can't have anywhere else.
Stevens said that is one of the things that he loves most about Las Vegas: the excitement of people who come here and how they leave with memories they can't get anywhere else.
The casino owner is also happy to see the changes brought about by the Downtown Project, which has funded retail and restaurant options along Fremont East and other areas in downtown.
“From the hotel-casino business, the fact that Fremont East is lively and full of all these types of options it’s been great on the Fremont Street side,” he said.
He said people who stay at his hotels love to have options for dining and drinking along the entertainment corridor.
Besides seeing the difference Downtown Project has made, Stevens has seen a big difference in the safety along Fremont Street Experience. The City of Las Vegas worked with business owners and street entertainers to come with rules for liquor purchases and busker rules in an effort to make the area safer.
"I’m a believer that Fremont Street Experience is one of the safest places in Las Vegas," Stevens said.
Derek Stevens, casino/resort owner