A Bellagio for Block E?

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February 14, 2011 // UPDATED 2:22 pm - February 23, 2011
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott

// Alatus confirms that it’s considering a luxury casino for the troubled Downtown complex //

DOWNTOWN CORE — So the word is out, and the rumors are true: Alatus is indeed considering putting a casino inside Block E.

On Feb. 22, the local developer acknowledged the possibility for the first time, issuing an official statement in response to mounting press inquiry. According to the statement, one of many ideas the company is considering involves “a limited-footprint, sophisticated, best-in-class gaming component similar in style and experience to the Bellagio or Wynn.”

While the company stressed that the idea was still very much hypothetical, the Star Tribune confirmed that Alatus’ Bob Lux had already met with both Governor Mark Dayton and Mayor R. T. Rybak to discuss the possibility.

Such a project would take considerable legal finagling — possibly even amending the state constitution — as gambling in Minnesota is mostly restricted to Indian reservations.

Still, it’s a surprising curve ball from a company that so far has kept its cards extremely close to the chest. It’s also a sign that Bruce Kaplan — Alatus’ newly hired retail guru, characterized in the press as methodical and cautious — has a capacity to think outside of the box.

Kaplan has reportedly been collecting demographic and psychographic data about the area, as well as soliciting opinions from nearby residents and business owners. He has indicated that leasing efforts may begin this summer.

Alatus purchased Block E last July from Washington D.C.-based Union Labor Life Insurance Co. for $14 million dollars. The site was originally developed by Chicago-based McCaffrey Interests, in 2002.