Monday, Feb. 7, 2000 | 11:15 a.m.
Developer Irwin Molasky views his $120 million high-rise luxury condominium project, Park Towers at Hughes Center, as the latest in a long line of leaps of faith.
"I call it that because this project is the first of its kind," he said. "I've made other, similar leaps of faith in the past. We built Sunrise -- the first private hospital here -- and we built Boulevard Mall, which has grown into a 1.3 million-square-foot mall.
"Those were also first-of-their-kind projects."
Sensing the time was right, two years ago Molasky put together financing for the two 20-story luxury condominium towers under construction on Howard Hughes Parkway near Flamingo and Paradise roads.
Condos range in size from 2,200 square feet to the sprawling 10,000-square-foot penthouse suites.
Featuring a host of amenities, ranging from private elevators to around-the-clock valet services, condo prices vary from $720,000 to more than $4 million.
However, those looking to buy the most expensive -- and expansive -- condominiums will be disappointed.
"The penthouse suites are already sold, and the highest-priced units we have left are those just over $1 million," Molasky said.
With project completion expected in September, half of Park Towers' 84 luxury units are already sold; Molasky estimates local buyers constitute about 75 percent of Park Towers' customers.
Like Park Towers, the $600-million Turnberry Place luxury high-rise project also hopes to attract wealthy residents.
Officials of the project, spanning 15 acres at the intersection of Paradise Road and Riviera Boulevard, say sales have been brisk for the first of four planned towers.
Jeffrey Soffer, a principal with Turnberry developer Turnberry Associates, said 160 of the first tower's 183 units have been sold; sales for the second tower began in December, with more than 40 units already sold.
Turnberry Associates last week announced an additional $13.5 million acquisition of 10 acres of land at the intersection of Karen Road and Paradise Road. The company has yet to release development plans for the newly acquired property.
Though he remains the driving force behind his project, Molasky convinced a wide range of investors to join him in his "leap of faith."
"It's a perfect location for such a project, and others have recognized that as well," said Molasky. "(Mirage Resorts Inc. Chairman) Steve Wynn, for example, helped with the design and placement of the project. Also Ray Park, the second-largest shareholder in the Cleveland Indians, is a partner in the project.
"But it's especially wonderful to have Steve involved, as he's a special person with vision and an innate sense of good taste."
Wynn's involvement also includes the purchase of a luxury condo for personal use.
International financing for the project includes funds from Paris-based Societe Generale, along with the Bank of Nova Scotia.
Molasky said the project's target market is primarily business people whose children have grown up and moved away, and who no longer want to deal with "the vagaries of owning a house."
"This development offers those types of people an easier living style than owning a house, including amenities such as valet services and amazing security," he said.
Park Towers sales director Cindy Calles said the "amazing security" includes elevators that won't move until an electronic eye reads a designated security card.
"They're called proximity cards, and the electronic eye can read the card without the tenant removing it from his wallet," said Calles.
Some of Park Towers' residents may already be familiar with that level of technology.
"Our buyers really span the gamut, ranging from the 'dot-com' people -- our youngest buyer is 27 years old -- to older businessmen near or at retirement age," said Calles.
Encouraging other developers to "envision the future and build on the past," Molasky said the advent of the Internet has forever changed the marketing of real estate.
"For example, we have camcorders recording construction of Park Towers 24 hours a day for our website," he said. "That way, if someone's in New York and wants to view our project, they can see it anytime they choose."
Molasky is convinced in the longevity of e-commerce, and expects the speed of business will continue to accelerate.
"These days, when you make a mistake, the world now knows about it before you dot your com," he said. "Still, I encourage businesspeople to be open and receptive to new ideas of commerce."
With five decades of development experience, Molasky surveys the booming Las Vegas real estate market and -- for the most part -- likes what he sees.
"In terms of the commercial market, there's really two separate markets at play here," he said. "On the local side, with 6,000 people a month moving here, there's a strong demand for neighborhood centers offering Albertson's and those kind of stores.
"That's also good planning, because if people have stores close to home they don't clog up the highways every time they're out shopping."
Molasky also sees a growing demand for "power centers" -- retail complexes featuring national, industry-dominating chain stores.
"Those types of projects pay only about 10 percent of the rent charged on the Las Vegas Strip, and they're the bread and butter of the commercial sector," he said.
However, Molasky expressed concern about the abundance of Strip-based retailers, saying some may soon find themselves short of customers.
"I think when you look at all the Strip retail -- the Forum Shoppes, the Venetian and soon the Aladdin among others -- they're reaching a point of potential saturation," Molasky said.
"Even with our growing tourism numbers, at some point you have to ask how much of that (retail) space is going to get used."