The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors on Tuesday unanimously approved the sale of 10 acres of Strip-front land for $125 million.
Developers Brett Torino of Las Vegas and New York’s Paul Kanavos, who have built retail projects on the Strip together, teamed up to buy the parcel just south of the Fontainebleau Las Vegas.
It’s unclear what the new owners have planned for the property, but LVCVA President and CEO Steve Hill said after the meeting that the developers are considering a retail and entertainment complex and possibly a nongaming hotel on the site.
Torino and Kanavos were not at the meeting.
In a statement to the Review-Journal, Torino, owner of Torino Companies, did not say what his group is looking to build on the north Strip parcel.
He described the 10-acre site as a “strategic piece of real estate” that will connect the Las Vegas Convention Center to the Strip.
“We believe this prime location has numerous possibilities and there has been significant interest from other parties that would like to discuss our development plans,” Torino said. “Further announcements will be made at a later date.”
The LVCVA voted in fall 2021 to initially sell the 10-acre plot to Chilean developer Claudio Fischer for $120 million, but the sale failed to close last year. The LVCVA kept a $7 million nonrefundable deposit and put the parcel back up for sale.
Hill had said it received interest on the land from multiple bidders, but Torino and Kanavos were determined to be the best suitors.
He told board members during the meeting that the option of keeping the land for future use was considered, but selling it and using a portion of the proceeds to help finance a $600 million renovation of the Las Vegas Convention Center was preferable. The renovation project would bring the North, Central and South halls up to the standard of the $1 billion West Hall and is expected to begin next month.
“It would be great to have both 10 acres and $125 million,” Hill said in response to an inquiry from Board Chairman and Clark County Commissioner Jim Gibson. “We don’t think it makes sense for the Convention Center to hold Las Vegas Boulevard frontage worth $12.5 million an acre. We can go buy other land that is certainly less expensive.”
Hill explained that when the city’s largest trade shows come to Las Vegas — such as CES in January and the ConExpo-Con/Agg construction equipment show currently underway — every square inch of available exhibit space, including parking lots, are used for displays.
“The land would be great to have, but we feel that given the choice, this is the right decision,” he said.
Appealing to neighbors
Hill said after the meeting that Torino and Kanavos have plenty of options.
“That land is a meeting point for some of the great things that are being built around the Convention Center — Fontainebleau and Resorts World. Tying that all together on that site brings in the Wynn, the Sahara and it becomes a focal point for the neighborhood,” Hill said.
“The Convention Center is kind of on an island. When you go to our competitors around the country, they often have hotel properties that are basically attached to their convention centers. You don’t have to go very far once you’re in town to attend your event. We are now the Convention Center with the most connectivity to hotels, casinos, entertainment complexes of any in the country and that’s going to make a real difference for us.”
Hill said he’s not concerned that the new development wouldn’t have a casino on-site. Fischer envisioned a high-rise hotel with a casino in his considerations.
“From a size standpoint, what we’ve talked about is at least 100 rooms (for a hotel),” Hill said. “It doesn’t make any sense to go smaller than that. Over time, the builders can change those plans, but the first phase is going to be that entertainment complex.”
Because there’s no casino immediately planned, he thinks whatever is developed will be well received by neighbors.
“I would imagine that the plans Brett and Paul have for that property are appealing to their neighbors,” he said. “But frankly, even when it’s a directly competitive property, any property within walking distance (of the Convention Center) and creates critical mass within the walking radius really raises the tide for everybody’s boat.”
Hill is confident Torino will deliver on his promises.
“I’ve known Brett for a long time, the community has known Brett for a long time,” he said. “He’s never not followed through on something like this unless something pops up that’s a real obstacle that can’t be overcome. We’re pretty confident with the site and what it looks like and what has been presented to me. This is a meaningful project to Brett because of his ties with the city and the importance of this property to the city. So we think that’s a great marriage.”
Torino and Kanavos, chairman and CEO of Flag Luxury Group, teamed up more than a decade ago to develop a three-story retail complex at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue.
The project, called Harmon Corner, features tenants such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Sugar Factory.
More recently, they built a four-story retail project called 63 at the southwest corner of the same intersection, next to luxury mall The Shops at Crystals at the multi-tower CityCenter complex.
The new project is slated to feature such tenants as Ocean Prime, whose operators said they’d invest nearly $20 million in the seafood and steakhouse restaurant set to open this spring.
Must build by 2033
As part of the land sale, the 14-member LVCVA board considered spending $2 million on closing costs and other contractual requirements.
The clock on a 90-day due diligence period began with approval of the deal. The buyers now have five days to make a $3 million initial deposit. By the end of the due diligence period, an additional $2 million will be required from the buyers.
The sale must be completed by Sept. 11. As part of the agreement, the LVCVA carved out two time frames to license the parcel for $1: in late October and early November for the Specialty Equipment Market Association automotive trade show and in December and January for the tech megashow CES 2024.
Similar to its agreement with Fischer, Torino and Kanavos will be required to begin construction within 10 years, meaning the latest construction could begin is 2033.
Should the new buyers decide to sell the property, the LVCVA would have the first crack at buying it back.
The LVCVA bought the Riviera hotel-casino in 2015 for $182.5 million, acquiring the 26-acre site for Convention Center expansion space. It imploded the resort.
Authority officials have talked about selling the corner plot since at least February 2019, when Hill told a breakfast meeting of NAIOP, a commercial real estate association, members that the agency would look to sell about 10 acres of the former Riviera site.
At the time, Hill did not offer an estimate on how much the parcel could be worth, though he thought it would fetch top dollar.
“It may be the most valuable piece of property that a government agency has ever sold,” Hill told the Review-Journal.
In March 2019, the LVCVA hired brokerage firm CBRE Group to sell the property. No asking price was given.
Contact Richard N. Velotta at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-477-3893. Follow @RickVelotta on Twitter. Review-Journal reporter Eli Segall contributed to this story.
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