LAS VEGAS-The Las Vegas City Council this week approved plans for an 85-acre development along the West side of Main Street. The project would include more than 9,000 hotel, timeshare and condo units, 3.5 million sf of permanent exhibition space, 1.2 million sf of commercial/retail space, a 22,000-seat sports arena and 300,000 sf of gaming area. The developer behind the plan is Real Estate Interests Group of Bloomfield Hills, MI.

Company president John Weaver tells he has the property under contract to close later this year, has secured senior debt financing and expects to start moving dirt next year for the first phase of the massive project. The cost of the land has not been released. The estimated construction budget is $8.5 billion. The project’s total value upon completion is estimated at $9.5 billion.

“We plan on breaking ground in the third quarter of 2008 upon receipt of all necessary permits and design approvals,” he says. “We have a pre-development meeting with the city next week.”

The bulk of the development site is bounded on the north by East Charleston Boulevard, on the south by W. Wyoming Street, on the east by Main Street and on the west by the Union Pacific railroad tracks. In addition, the development area includes a triangle of land west of the railroad tracks at the north end of the site and a triangle of land east of Main Street at the south end of the site that extends to Las Vegas Boulevard opposite the Stratosphere hotel-casino.

The extra chunk of land at the north end would be used in part to extend Grand Central Parkway across Charleston Boulevard, under the railroad tracks and into the development. The extra chunk at the south end would give the development a presence at the very north end of the Las Vegas Strip.

The first phase of development, slated for the north end of the site, would include the area, 50,000 sf of retail, 100 condominiums and 3.5 million sf of permanent exhibition and office space for sporting goods manufacturers that would wrap around the arena. Weaver describes the exhibition space as similar to what the World Market Center here is to furniture designers and manufacturers and what the planned World Jewelry Center will be to that industry.

The remaining phases would include 300,000 sf of casino floor space; 950,000 sf of casino-related retail, back-of-the-house and conference room space; 500,000 sf of commercial/retail space; 6,000 hotel rooms; 1,500 condo-hotel rooms; and 1,500 straight condominium units.

The potential deal-killer is the arena. The city has yet to select a developer as the best for developing the area it wants to see developed and there are six other developers in the running. Mayor Oscar Goodman has said getting the zoning changes and approvals does not improve REI’s chances of getting the arena deal. Weaver has said that without the arena, his project will fall apart.

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