Friday, May 24, 2002 | 11:10 a.m.
Anthony Marnell II, the architect and builder behind some of the Las Vegas Strip's most famous resorts, is taking his company in a new direction: the master development of major office parks.
Marnell's design and building company, Marnell Corrao Associates, is a titan in the gaming industry, having built resorts with more than 55,000 hotel rooms nationwide including Bellagio, the Mirage, Caesars in Atlantic City, Treasure Island, the Flamingo Hilton-Reno and MGM Grand's City of Entertainment.
And Marnell said Steve Wynn has tapped Marnell Corrao to build Le Reve on the Las Vegas Strip, a building contract that will total $1 billion for the firm.
He also sees a great need in the local market for office parks that are "more in tune with employees' lifestyles."
So Marnell is spearheading the development of Marnell Corporate Center, a Class A office project with eight buildings and 600,000 square feet of office, warehouse and retail space.
Marnell Corporate Center is on 30 acres on the south side of Sunset Road, east of Las Vegas Boulevard South and within the western portion of Hughes Airport Center.
Though Marnell Corrao has developed smaller build-to-suit commercial projects throughout the valley over the company's 25-year history, Marnell Corporate Center marks the first big office park for the multi-service firm.
"There have been some very nice (commercial) projects done in certain locations in town, but we see an opening to build a product that's not being supplied," Marnell said. "Las Vegas is ready for an office park environment not contingent upon a tilt-up box with holes punched in the walls."
Amenities at the park will include state-of-the-art technological capabilities and 18,000 square feet of ancillary retail, such as banks, dry cleaners and mail-service outlets.
In addition, the site will house Panevino, an 18,000-square-foot Italian restaurant and deli complete with corporate meeting space.
Panevino is scheduled to open Dec.1, with the rest of the 150,000-square-foot first phase opening in January.
Marnell Corrao, which has 100 employees, will occupy a 50,000-square-foot building in the park's first phase.
The center's build-out is scheduled to occur within three to four years.
Total costs on the first phase are $35 million; complete project costs were unavailable.
Marnell said the search for tenants for the park will focus on "upscale people who want an upscale product, and who understand the effect a good office environment has on creativity, productivity and satisfaction."
He also said he likes the site for its location near the confluence of Interstates 15 and 215, and for its proximity to McCarran International Airport.
Construction work on Marnell Corporate Center will run simultaneously to the company's building of Le Reve.
Marnell said working drawings for Le Reve are "well out in front of the construction schedule," with building slated to begin any day now.
Wynn Resorts declined to comment on a groundbreaking date for the property.
Marnell was unable to disclose specific design elements of the hotel-casino.
"(Wynn) is doing exactly what everyone is expecting," he said. "He is one of several great leaders of great companies in this business. He is going to check and raise (the resort development bar). It's what everyone expects him to do, and it's what his competitors will do right after. It will rev up resort development in this market again."
Marnell's experience in the local market spans most of his life.
His family moved to the valley when Marnell was 3 years old. He left Las Vegas to obtain an architecture degree in 1972 from the University of Southern California.
He then returned to Las Vegas and worked for companies that included Zuni Construction Co., Moffitt & McDaniel Architects and Alfred Caldwell Architecture prior to becoming general manager of Corrao Construction Co.'s Las Vegas offices.
Soon after joining Corrao Construction, Marnell formed Marnell Corrao Associates; he's been the company's chairman and owner since.
He said gaming operators have tapped his services time and again because his firm concentrates on "being competitive, on-time and innovative. We're able to deal continuously with a more complex business environment."
And Marnell Corrao has avoided the contractor-lien imbroglios that have ensnared properties such as the JW Marriott and the Venetian by "walking away from projects on which we could not convince the owner what the cost of the project was going to be in the end."
Even as he built major hotels and casinos nationwide, Marnell himself acquired substantial experience in developing new gaming concepts in Las Vegas.
He built the first tower of the Rio Suite Hotel & Casino in 1990.
Ten months after the West Flamingo Road property opened, Marnell took over its operations. In 1996, he added a $200 million, 41-story tower that brought the property up to 2,563 suites.
Marnell said he is proud of the Rio's accomplishments under his leadership.
"The Rio showed the marketplace that locals and tourists could interact successfully under the same roof, and it also was responsible for the food renaissance in Las Vegas," he said. "It pushed the point that the idea of themed hotels in Las Vegas was greatly misinterpreted. Theming is about an idea, not a literal translation."
Marnell sold the Rio to Harrah's Entertainment Inc. in 1999 for $880 million. The property, plagued by uneven performance of its high-end gaming component, failed to meet its historic performance levels after the acquisition.
It went from a $97 million cash flow in 1999 to a $29.3 million cash flow in 2000.
Harrah's has managed to reverse the slide, however: Last year's cash flow was about $60 million.
In the first quarter of this year, the Rio's cash flow totaled $25.9 million, a 14 percent increase over the same quarter a year ago.
"There are always going to be some problems with transition," said Marnell of the Rio's change in ownership. "Harrah's is a smart company with a lot of smart people. I have confidence in them. It took the company time to integrate its core business into the product, but it's not easy to turn around an aircraft carrier."
And while many analysts see hard economic times as the biggest issue confronting the Las Vegas gaming market, Marnell said it is the creation of competitive concepts that most often trips up local operators.
"The people who win are the people who put their best product in play. As architects and designers, we are a piece of that. But 20 percent of the (properties) in the market at a given time have been failures because some people don't understand how to make a competitive product."
Marnell said he has little interest in returning to the ownership and operation of gaming properties.
Instead, he is seeking additional sites near the airport for further office-park development.
And he is adding a line of business -- consulting -- to the roster of services Marnell Corrao already offers, which include architecture, interior design, building, master-planning and development.
The company's consulting division will be up and running sometime this summer, and will provide upfront services in areas such as feasibility studies for commercial and casino properties.
Marnell Corrao also continues to expand the list of clients it serves through TRIRIGA, the technology company it established in 2000 to provide business automation software for the hospitality and design-build industries.
Last month, the design group of MGM MIRAGE implemented TRIRIGA's Intelligent Business System to procure fixtures, furnishings and equipment for the gaming giant's properties.
TRIRIGA will also make the move to Marnell Corporate Center, and will occupy 70,000 square feet at the office park.
"The ante keeps moving up. What's important is for us not to just be in the market, but to focus on what we understand, and on what we can do well. We identify a demand and make sure we have the expertise to implement a concept well."