Tuesday, April 23, 2002 | 11:24 a.m.
New Frontier hotel-casino owner Phil Ruffin today said he's partnering with casino and real estate developer Donald Trump to build a 60-story, 300-unit condominium tower on Fashion Show Drive less than a block from the New Frontier and the Las Vegas Strip.
At roughly 600 feet, the $300 million Trump Tower Las Vegas would be the second-tallest structure in the Strip area, after the 1,149-foot Stratosphere tower. The tallest tower at New York-New York hotel-casino is 529 feet tall, while the towers at nearby Turnberry Place, a high-end condominium development on Paradise Road, reach about 476 feet into the sky.
Ruffin said the single-tower development "will be first-class, so good you can't imagine. It'll be better than Turnberry Place and Park Towers. It'll be the best thing in Las Vegas."
Steve Bottfeld, executive vice president and senior analyst for home building industry research firm Marketing Solutions, said a number of factors could coalesce to make the Trump-Ruffin project successful.
"We are building a major time share market here," Bottfeld said, citing the Polo Towers expansion and the Hilton Grand Vacations project among others. "That is going to continue to condition the market for the high-rise phenomenon. Are we going to see a high-rise a week? No. Are we going to see four, five or six high-rises over the next decade or so? Probably, because it makes sense."
Bottfeld also said recent bullish profit reports by publicly traded gaming companies indicate the local economy is recovering more quickly than expected from the events of Sept. 11 and last year's national recession.
"When the economy is good, high-rise succeeds like crazy," he said.
"The high-rise phenomenon here is nowhere near close to over," Bottfeld said. "Turnberry has had terrific success, and there's been outstanding success at Park Towers. There's no question those two teams have demonstrated to the rest of the world that high-rise can be highly successful."
Ruffin said construction on the project would begin in six to seven months, with homes ready for occupancy about 18 months after construction commences.
Officials at the Trump Organization were unable to comment on financing and a spokeswoman for the company said price ranges for the homes have yet to be established.
Ruffin said though Trump and his company would concentrate on finding financing for the project, he believed "several banks are lined up ready" to finance the development.
Ruffin said he and Trump would appeal to several demographic segments for sales of the units, including corporations looking for retreats, as well as second-home buyers and consumers who are already residents of Las Vegas.
Norma Foerderer, vice president of the Trump Organization, said designs for the property were in the preliminary stages, so a roster of amenities at the property wasn't solidified. But she said it would be a "state-of-the-art tower with all the amenities that come with the territory," including exercise centers, a spa and a pool.
She said it was too early to comment on whether the property would have a gaming component.
Ruffin said the tower would be similar to the Trump Tower in New York, a 66-story building that caters to wealthy buyers with high-end shopping and cascading waterfalls in its entry ways.
"We are going to bring a level of quality design, construction, services and amenities in high-rise development that Las Vegas has not yet seen," Donald Trump said in a statement. "This part of the Strip is experiencing a surge in new development and our location enjoys the benefits and excitement of the Strip, with an elegance that can only be achieved in a location like ours."
Ruffin said he and Trump chose the location on Fashion Show Drive for its proximity directly across from the front entrance to Nordstrom's new store at the Fashion Show mall, which is currently undergoing a doubling in size from 840,000 square feet to 1.9 million square feet.
"(The location) has shopping, but it's off the Strip a little bit, so residents don't have to face the Strip every day.
"It's a great project, the condominium market is strong, and the Trump name is good. He will be able to build a world-class condominium project."
Ruffin said the partnership came about two years ago when Trump approached him to inquire about developing on or near the Strip.
"Donald and I are friends, and we've been talking about this for about a year. He originally approached us a couple of years ago, and at first, I wasn't sure about it. But I sold myself on the idea, given how strong the market is and how valuable the Trump name is."
Ruffin also said he was heartened by the success of Turnberry Associates' nearby Turnberry Place, as well as Irwin Molasky's Park Towers. Both are high-end condominium projects that have successfully sold hundreds of homes for prices ranging from $500,000 to $3.5 million.
"I think this is going to be a great project, and I'm looking forward to doing it. It should help the whole north end of the Strip," Ruffin said.
In addition to the Fasion Show mall's expansion, Steve Wynn is plans to break ground soon on Le Reve, the resort he is building on the former Desert Inn site.
Ruffin has made previous attempts to develop a San Francisco-themed resort called City by the Bay on the site of the New Frontier, which the Wichita, Kan.-based businessman bought for $165 million in October 1997.
In March 2000, after he announced plans for the $750 million City by the Bay, Ruffin was embroiled in a fight for the San Fransciso concept with a former consultant on the project.
Ruffin said though no plans to build the resort on the site of the New Frontier were imminent, he still intends to develop the property when financing is available.
"At some point, the New Frontier will have to be removed to make way for a new resort," he said. "We do not have the financing in place for that. We've had some propositions from financiers to do the deal, but they didn't make any sense to me. We're going to wait until a better opportunity comes. We still want to do (City by the Bay), but we're looking for a billion dollars."
Trump has experienced his own problems entering the local market.
He entered a partnership in January 2000 to develop 640 acres in Henderson with the Cheng family of Hong Kong. The master-plan would have contained 600 luxury homes, but the deal fell through two months later following problems between Trump and the Chengs.