Suite Redemption

After big setbacks, real estate mogul Stephen Siegel puts his money on Downtown—and beyond

He’s battled banks, so-called bad neighborhoods and a brutal economy. But since 2004 Stephen Siegel has remained a confident buyer in the Las Vegas real estate market.

Last year, when Bank of America showed him to be in default on $21.3 million in debt, Siegel didn’t flinch. He was able to renegotiate the loan to a lower principal balance and continue his buying spree, including his latest three apartment complexes at 13th and Fremont streets.
These 247 units create what the 42-year-old Siegel calls a Fremont East “end cap” made up of previously rundown but now upgraded Siegel Suites weekly rentals. He now has about 4,000 Siegel Suites units spanning 19 properties. Within a few years, he hopes to have 10,000.

Lenders, it seems, still trust in the bright side of his track record.

“It’s all in how you’ve behaved in bad situations,” he says of approaching lenders after renegotiating some of his debt. “A lot of people, when things go bad they say, ‘Screw you, here’s the keys. I’m going to file for bankruptcy!’”

One of Siegel’s secrets has been his faith in unglamorous addresses. He’s built a small empire along the Paradise corridor, with Siegel Suites addresses and boutique hotels Rumor, Artisan and the soon-to-be reopened (likely under a new name) Atrium. He also lives in the neighborhood and has his office there.

“To me, people talk about how it may not be the best area, that doesn’t really factor in for me, I just have a feeling about it. I don’t know. We can talk about it, I guess, 10 years from now and see what happens.”

Siegel’s next steps for his 1,000-employee operation are ambitious. He has bought land in several areas of town, and is ready to depart from his image as a redeveloper to build apartments from the ground up. Meanwhile, he’s toyed with the idea of trading his boutique hotel properties for the right piece of Strip real estate.

“I think we’re looking to take that next step into a bigger property,” he says.

One area where he figures to stay deeply involved is Downtown. He was an early investor in what’s become known as the area’s “renaissance” with his 2008 purchase and subsequent remodel of the Gold Spike Hotel and Casino. Now he’s making a case for the area to diversify its nightlife-centric approach.

“I think you need to get the mom and pops down there that are different and create that sense of community,” he says. “You can’t have bar, bar, bar, little restaurant, bar, bar, bar. That doesn’t work. You have to have barbershops, grocery stores. When you master-plan a community, you master-plan those types of different businesses in there.”

Would you rather be the big fish in this particular pond, or trade it for a shot at the Strip? Tell us in the comments section below.