Wednesday, May 8, 2002 | 11:01 a.m.
More than two years after its closure, the Silver City Casino on the Las Vegas Strip has been sold once again.
But instead of a San Francisco-themed resort -- the idea once floated by its former owner -- Silver City will be replaced by a Ross clothing store, multiple sources said Tuesday.
Clark County records indicate that San Francisco real estate developer Luke Brugnara sold the 3.5-acre parcel at the northeast corner of the Strip and Convention Center Drive -- land occupied by the Silver City and a Walgreens store -- to AG CCR Las Vegas I LLC for $31.3 million. The buyer was identified by Brugnara and others as Angelo Gordon & Co., a New York-based investment firm.
Brugnara will keep 6 acres of vacant land behind the Silver City site. He paid Mandalay Resort Group a total of $31.5 million for the 9.5 acres in 1999.
"I would certainly say (the Silver City) was sold for a premium," Brugnara said.
After buying the land parcel, Brugnara had talked about building a San Francisco-themed resort there, and attempted to get a gaming license that would have allowed him to reopen the Silver City.
The Nevada Gaming Commission unanimously denied his application in March 2001, citing poor financial recordkeeping, allegations that Brugnara had failed to file tax returns, run-ins with San Francisco city officials over alleged building code violations, and issues from Brugnara's personal life. Brugnara had threatened to sue in an attempt to overturn the decision, but backed away from this threat later.
Despite the sale, the brash developer vowed to continue his efforts to build on the Las Vegas Strip. He said he is considering building a high-rise condominium development on the land behind the Silver City, "or a high-rise hotel-casino."
Though denied a year ago, Brugnara claimed most of the issues cited by the commission had been resolved, and that he could win a license on his second attempt.
"I am definitely going to be moving ahead with plans to get my (gaming) license," Brugnara said. "I'll be making an announcement very soon regarding a major casino property I'll be buying."
San Francisco city officials, however, have suggested recently that Brugnara could be in financial difficulty. In an April press release, the San Francisco City Attorney's office announced it had settled a long running building code violation claim against Brugnara over a medical building Brugnara owned in San Francisco.
The case was settled by the building's new owners for $2.25 million. Brugnara, the press release said, had "lost the building to lenders."
Brugnara accused the San Francisco City Attorney's office of lying.
"That's (expletive)," Brugnara said. "I bought it for $23 million, sold it for $47 million. I'll take that loss any day."
Meanwhile, the 20,000-square-foot Silver City will be coming down, a little more than two years after it closed its doors.
Using land with Strip frontage to build a discount clothing store simply would not have made sense in the past, said Las Vegas hotel-casino broker David Atwell. Typically, a land parcel for a Ross store could be had for one-third to one-fifth the price Angelo Gordon paid for the Silver City, Atwell said.
But in recent years, lower-end retail has been popping up on the Strip -- developer Brett Torino opened a Walgreens near the Bellagio, and drug store operator CVS Corp. paid a "huge number" for a gas station next to the Monte Carlo.
"The only reason I can think of is that the big (retail) companies want a presence on the Las Vegas Strip," Atwell said. "Traditionally, this doesn't make sense to those of us who have been here a long time. But things are changing, and we have to get acclimated to that change."
A Ross Stores Inc. spokeswoman declined comment. Angelo Gordon officials could not be reached.