Monday, Nov. 6, 2000 | 11:19 a.m.
The parent company of the Aladdin hotel-casino said today it's selling five acres to an investment company that plans to build a luxury condominium development and a nongaming hotel near the Las Vegas Strip.
The Athena Group LLC, New York, a company that recently completed a Fifth Avenue condominium in New York City that sells units for $2,400 a square foot, plans to close on the deal by February and hopes to complete the development within two years.
Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
It's the second New York-style upscale condo project announced on the Strip in four months. Lakes Gaming Inc. announced a similar project with Metroplex LLC, owned by Las Vegas developer Brett Torino, at a site across the street from the Athena Group development. The Lakes development will have retail stores, a non-gaming hotel and a condominium complex.
Athena Group plans to build a 350-room five-star hotel as well as an 800,000-square-foot luxury condominium development on the site at Harmon Avenue and Audrie Lane, just to the southeast of newly opened Aladdin. The site currently is occupied by construction company trailers temporarily located for the completion of the Aladdin and the Desert Passage mall, which both opened in August.
At one time, the site was targeted for a music-themed hotel, planned by the company that owns Planet Hollywood. But Planet Hollywood and its Official All Star Cafe franchises have struggled and operated under bankruptcy protection until January.
The Las Vegas Official All Star Cafe closed in January, but a Planet Hollywood restaurant continues to operate at the Forum Shops at Caesars. When the company emerged from bankruptcy protection, officials said the company still hopes to develop a hotel-casino in Las Vegas.
Louis Dubin, president and chief executive officer of the Athena Group, said there are still a number of details that have yet to be finalized, but he is enthusiastic about developing a project that would be attached to the Desert Passage.
"It's a phenomenal site with great access and incredible synergies for luxury living," said Dubin. "It's right next to a major theater (Aladdin's 7,000-seat Theatre for the Performing Arts) and Desert Passage is just an amazing place."
Dubin said the fact that there are other luxury condominium projects in the Las Vegas market encourages him.
"We have found that they are a plus because they help to demonstrate that a market exists for vertical living," Dubin said. "I don't want to say anything bad about those other properties, but I don't think anyone has quite captured urban vertical living the way we'll do it."
He said New Yorkers enjoy being able to take the elevator to the ground floor and be able to walk to top-quality restaurants. He feels his Las Vegas project -- the first Athena effort in Nevada -- will be successful because it will be within walking distance of several top restaurants, not only at Desert Passage and the Aladdin, but at Bellagio and Paris Las Vegas.
Athena has developments in New York and Boston and two years ago sold its Florida home-building company.
Dubin said it hasn't been determined how tall the project will be or whether one building would accommodate both the hotel and the condo units or whether there would be two towers.
He said he expected the project to be between 35 and 40 stories high and contain between 150 and 200 condo units of between 2,500 and 5,000 square feet. He said prices haven't been determined.
David Atwell, a longtime hotel-casino broker who handled the sale of property at the Polo Towers for Metroplex and Lakes Gaming, said the high-rise luxury condo is a concept that continues to succeed in Las Vegas.
"The Turnberry (Place) and Steve Wynn-Irwin Molasky (Hughes Center) projects have proven that there is a strong market and now Metroplex is building the biggest and the best yet in conjunction with a major brand name on the Harmon Strip site," Atwell said.
Atwell said he could not disclose the major brand name of the Metroplex partner on the planned 52-story development.
"It's the wave of the future," he said of luxury condos. "Who knows what the depth of this market is? It's amazing how quickly new hotel rooms are absorbed by the market. I think the same is true of the luxury condo market."
Atwell explained that many of units at Turnberry Place have been acquired as vacation properties by wealthy individuals who want to establish a residency in Nevada for tax purposes. Some, he said, probably won't be occupied more than one month out of a year.
"When Turnberry popped up, there was a lot of skepticism at first, but now they have one whole tower sold and about two-thirds of a second tower," he said. "(Molasky's) Hughes Center development is a little smaller, but it is doing well. I think they have shown there is a market out there."