Saks Fifth Avenue wants to add a casino atop its flagship store
NEW YORK — The race to build New York’s first full-service casino is going upscale.
Hudson’s Bay Co., owner of the Saks Fifth Avenue department store chain, said it would bid with the state to convert the top three floors of its flagship store in midtown Manhattan into a Monte Carlo-style casino.
The project is one in a growing list of bids to secure three available licenses for a full-fledged casino in the New York City region. Hudson’s Bay joins a crowded field of hopefuls, including Steve Cohen, owner of the Mets, and the Related Cos., the developer behind Hudson Yards, in pursuit of poker and other table games currently prohibited in the city.
The project, starting on the ninth floor of the luxury department store, would cover about 200,000 square feet, including a new lobby with a separate red-carpet-lined entrance for the casino.
“It will be comparable to the aesthetics and luxury detailing of the Saks Fifth Avenue store,” said Trenesa Danuser, a spokesperson for Hudson’s Bay. Renderings of the proposed casino show smartly dressed urbanites seated below chandeliers, reminiscent of stylish ’60s spy films, and a moonlit soiree on the roof of the stone-clad, prewar building.
The floors’ current use is less glamorous. On Friday morning, the ninth floor offered a mix of discounted women’s dresses, lingerie, children’s books and holiday decorations. The 10th floor was being used as a SaksWorks, the company’s recent foray into flexible office space.
Compared to many of the other casino bids, which include sprawling development projects, the Saks proposal is relatively modest — which could ultimately work in its favor. The redesign, which would not involve changing the size of the building, could be completed in fewer than 12 months, Danuser said, while more complicated proposals could take years to get underway.
The project could also benefit from the city’s reviving economy, said Michael Tortorici, founding partner of Ariel Property Advisors, a commercial real estate brokerage.
“The tourists are coming back and they’re sticking to their tourist places,” he said, with this crowded strip of Fifth Avenue still benefiting from out-of-town foot traffic.
Opposition is likely. Community Board 5, which represents the area that includes the Saks building, is against the development of a casino because of fears that it could hurt local businesses, said Layla Law-Gisiko, chair of the board’s Land Use, Housing & Zoning Committee.
The building is also located across the street from Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, the landmark heart of the Catholic Church in New York. A spokesperson for the archdiocese declined to comment on the plans.
Standing outside the cathedral, Chris Wilmout, 43, from Washington, D.C., was in town sightseeing. “Not a fan, not a fan,” he said about the casino. “Times Square makes more sense, because it’s already like Vegas down there.”
The Manhattan field of bidders is particularly crowded. SL Green, a major commercial developer, is partnering with Caesars Entertainment to convert an office skyscraper at 1515 Broadway in Times Square, near the New Year’s Eve ball drop, into a casino and entertainment complex. Related Cos. will work with Wynn Resorts to develop the sprawling western half of Hudson Yards into a convention and casino district with a school and new housing. And the Soloviev Group has its eye on a 6.7-acre site near the United Nations headquarters that could host a large mixed-use complex with a Ferris wheel and a museum.
In Queens, Cohen is considering a casino bid on roughly 50 acres of publicly owned land next to Citi Field, while Thor Equities is pursuing plans for a Coney Island project in Brooklyn. This week, Las Vegas Sands, the gambling and resort company, also announced plans to seek a casino license on the nearly 80-acre site of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Long Island.
Two other casino-like operations, the so-called racinos in Yonkers and Queens that have horse racetracks and digital betting, are also in the running for the full-fledged gambling licenses.
A decision on which sites receive the licenses could be more than a year away. Official bids likely won’t be submitted for several months, while the developers ask the state board in charge of the review more questions about the application process.