Las Vegas Sun

December 11, 2018

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LOOKING IN ON: BUSINESS

Big-time developers have claimed another Strip landmark.

Metroflag, the company that has emerged with the top bid to buy the Riviera's parent company, recently bought the Harley-Davidson Cafe at the southeast corner of Harmon Avenue and the Strip for $14.9 million.

The site, just short of 1 acre, gives Metroflag about 18 prime acres of contiguous real estate from the Harley-Davidson Cafe site to the Smith & Wollensky steakhouse, across the Strip from the Monte Carlo.

Metroflag President Scott Butera, who joined the company in November from Trump Hotels & Casino Resorts, said the company has no immediate plans to redevelop the Harley-Davidson property or the rest of its roughly 1,200-acre Strip frontage.

"Clearly our focus is on the Riviera," Butera said.

It's also clear the company is positioning itself for a time when the last company without a major, mixed-use resort project on the Strip is a rotten egg.

One sign is Metroflag's relationship with the New York architecture firm Kohn Pedersen Fox Architects, a global powerhouse working with the Las Vegas company to master-plan potential projects. Metroflag, which also owns the Strip's Hawaiian Marketplace mall, is a joint venture between New York developers Flag Luxury Properties and Las Vegas developer Brett Torino's Torino Cos.

"The current plan is to operate the properties as we have them, though we're always looking for better ways to take advantage of that site," Butera said.

Breaking up, apparently, isn't that hard to do.

Station Casinos' partnership with timeshare developer Stephen Cloobeck and condo builder Steven Molasky to build two condominium towers at the company's Red Rock Resort has entered Splitsville. Station dissolved the partnership in June and intends to move ahead with the condo project on its own.

Under the initial agreement, Station owned 80 percent of the joint venture, and Cloobeck Molasky Partners LLC owned the remaining 20 percent. Station, which has opened a sales center for the condos at Red Rock, still intends to stick with initial plans to build up to 600 units by 2008.

The company has not finalized prices and is not yet taking reservations for the towers, which would be the first to be part of a suburban casino.

Cloobeck Molasky group seeks damages from Station in a demand for arbitration sent to the gaming company last month.

Station is still exploring the possibility of building condos at some of its other locals casinos around town, though these plans probably will not involve the residential developers.

Fontainebleau, oh Fontainebleau, wherefore art thou?

Developers of the much-awaited Fontainebleau casino resort and condo tower at the north end of the Strip haven't said boo about the project since it was announced in May of last year. The project's marketing boss says Fontainebleau Resorts - the partnership between Florida-based condominium developer Turnberry Associates and former Mandalay Resort Group executive and local arts patron Glenn Schaeffer - has not begun the official process of hiring executives to run the property.

But there is some movement afoot behind the scenes.

Developers recently filed their first set of plans with the county showing a hotel with 2,929 rooms and 959 additional condo units.

As expected, the property will feature multiple entertainment areas, shopping, indoor and outdoor dining and a convention center.

The main high-rise building would be 725 feet - one of the Strip's tallest. The Clark County Planning Commission was scheduled to vote on the plans this month, but that discussion has been delayed until Sept. 5.

John Marz, the Fontainebleau's marketing executive, cautioned that those plans are not final and said there is no firm timetable for when the project - initially scheduled to open in 2008 - might be approved and built. Turnberry already has begun the two-year renovation of the famed Fontainebleau hotel in Miami, purchased last year.

The details come amid cooled hype about condos, though luxury hotel brands are still hot to capture a piece of the Strip's burgeoning market of wealthy tourists.

Deutsche Bank Securities stock analyst Bill Lerner said he is not familiar with Fontainebleau's latest plans. Developers up and down the Strip, however, are delaying their projects after taking stock of an increasingly competitive marketplace, he said.

"Projects that penciled out favorably with good returns a year ago are less favorable today," Lerner said. "Not only is labor more expensive and materials more expensive, but labor isn't necessarily available. It's not as easy now as it was a year ago to lock down a general contractor."

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