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LAS VEGAS-Marriott International remains silent regarding its acquisition of a majority of the block across from the Las Vegas Convention Center, but the owner of a nearby Marriott-branded property says preliminary plans call for a convention headquarters hotel. Lewis Shaw, principal of Dallas-based developer Jackson-Shaw, tells GlobeSt.com that Marriott wants to develop a high-rise property under its Marriott Marquis brand.

Marriott Marquis is the company’s upscale, convention-oriented business hotel brand. There are two others in existence, one in Times Square in New York City and another in Downtown Atlanta. The Times Square property has 49 floors, 1,892 rooms and 101,450 sf of meeting space. The Atlanta property has 50 floors, 1,569 rooms and 130,000 sf of meeting space.

Shaw, who owns the 548-key Renaissance Las Vegas hotel abutting the south end of the convention center, says that given the preliminary nature of the plan the timing of the start of the project is unknown. “It could be five years out and it could be one year out,” he says. Marriott, meanwhile, is not even officially acknowledging its acquisition of the properties, let alone its plans. “There’s a lot out there that has not been nailed down by any stretch,” a company source tells GlobeSt.com.

What is known is that the Bethesda, MD-based public company has acquired five contiguous parcels totaling 10.6 acres for an aggregate price of $186 million, or $17.5 million per acre. The properties are all located on the block bound by Convention Center Drive, Paradise Road, East Desert Inn Road and Debbie Reynolds Drive. Immediately to the west, across Paradise Road, is the Las Vegas Convention Center. Immediately to the south, across East Desert Inn Road, is the Wynn Las Vegas Golf Club.

Under the name MRC I Funding Corp., Marriott’s buying spree began in December, when it paid $24.75 million for two parcels totaling 1.35 acres at the corner of Convention Center Drive and Paradise Road. In April, it acquired the bulk of the middle of the block, a 6.47-acre chunk touching Debbie Reynolds, Paradise and East Desert Inn that is home to a Residence Inn by Marriott, for $65 million. In June, it picked up a .68-acre parcel fronting Debbie Reynolds Drive for $8.75 million, and last month it closed on the Marriott Suites hotel at the corner of Debbie Reynolds and Convention Center, a 2.15-acre property for which it paid $87.5 million.

The acquisitions give it all but three chunks of the block, two of which it could potentially acquire. The largest of two it could acquire is a 3.85-acre parcel at the corner of East Desert Inn and Paradise that holds a Courtyard by Marriott that Marriott International sold off in 1992 and now leases from the owner, Marcourt Investments. The other property it could acquire is Piero’s, a restaurant owned by Fred Glusman that sits on three .33-acre parcels fronting Convention Center Drive. The one parcel it cannot acquire is Metropolis, a residential condominium development at the corner of East Desert Inn and Debbie Reynolds.

Meanwhile, there is speculation that Colony Capital may finally be getting close to renovating or redeveloping the 3,174-room Las Vegas Hilton, which sits on the north side of the convention center. Colony acquired the 30-year-old property in 2004 for just $280 million, about one-tenth of what Steve Wynn would spend to build his hotel. Local industry sources and published reports, the tens of millions in cash flow the property throws off, combined with the lack of another large competitor within walking distance of the convention center, has kept Colony from doing anything heretofore.

“The Hilton is a big hotel but it needs a massive amount of money to bring it up to date,” Shaw says. “They’ve had plans to do this and do that, but why shoot the cow when it’s producing so much milk? They do something whenever the Marriott starts on the Marquis, but who knows when that will be?”

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