by Eli Segall, Las Vegas Review-Journal, March 11, 2023
Developers Brett Torino and Paul Kanavos have teamed up to build retail projects in the heart of the Strip, bringing shopping and dining outposts to a section jammed with tourists.
Now they’re looking to expand to the northern edge of Las Vegas’ famed casino corridor — a quieter area that’s been seeing more action.
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority is scheduled Tuesday to consider selling a 10-acre plot to the developers for $125 million. Located at the southeast corner of Las Vegas and Elvis Presley boulevards, the site occupies part of the footprint where the Riviera stood.
The tourism agency’s meeting agenda doesn’t say what the buyers plan to do with the parcel, and the developers declined to comment to the Review-Journal this week.
But the sale could usher in a new project to the north Strip and show that despite the steep price of $12.5 million per acre, land values can soar even higher in busier sections of Las Vegas Boulevard.
Torino, owner of Torino Companies, and Kanavos, chairman and CEO of Flag Luxury Group, partnered more than a decade ago to develop a three-story retail complex at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue.
The project, called Harmon Corner, features tenants such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Sugar Factory.
More recently, they built a four-story retail project called 63 at the southwest corner of the same intersection, next to luxury mall The Shops at Crystals at the multi-tower CityCenter complex.
It is slated to feature such tenants as Ocean Prime, whose operators said they’d invest nearly $20 million in the seafood and steakhouse restaurant set to open this spring.
The new retail complex sits on a 2-acre parcel the developers acquired in 2021 for around $80 million — a valuation of $40 million an acre that surpassed land prices on the Strip during the mid-2000s bubble.
Also, Houston billionaire Tilman Fertitta last year purchased roughly 6 acres at the southeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon for $270 million — more than $43 million per acre. He’s already demolished some buildings and received county approval for a 43-story luxury hotel-casino.
Picking up the pace
A decade or so ago, after Las Vegas’ frenzied real estate market crashed, the north Strip was saddled with halted megaresort projects, huge tracts of land where massive developments never materialized, and minimal foot traffic.
The north Strip still isn’t crammed with tourists walking around and still has big tracts of land with an unknown future. But the area has gained momentum.
The corner plot being sold by the LVCVA is just south of Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a long-planned skyscraper that was reacquired two years ago by original developer Jeffrey Soffer.
The 67-story hotel-casino — which broke ground in 2007 and boasts a tumultuous history that spans different owners and years of inactivity — is under construction and scheduled to open in the fourth quarter.
LVCVA’s land is also adjacent to property acquired last year by The Siegel Group, which now owns more than 12 acres of contiguous real estate on and near the north Strip.
Michael Crandall, Siegel’s chief business officer, recently told me the firm has “received tons of calls on our land,” including from prospective buyers. But the company is “fully committed to developing” the site, has a concept for it, and wants to make sure it appeals to locals and visitors.
“We have no timeline at this point as we are still in the early stages,” Crandall noted.
The plot eyed by Torino and Kanavos is also near Resorts World Las Vegas, the $4.3 billion hotel-casino that opened in 2021, and the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall that debuted the same month.
Moreover, Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics have been looking at some sites in America’s casino capital for a potential new ballpark, including festival grounds at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.
For now, the north Strip is a long way from resembling the stretch of the corridor where Torino and Kanavos built before. But these developers are now looking to bet on an area that, in the not-too-distant past, felt light years away from other parts of the street.