|By Arnold M. Knightly, Las Vegas
Review-JournalMcClatchy-Tribune Regional News
Dec. 20, 2007 - The latest multibillion-dollar project planned for the Strip has received its first round of approval from county officials.
The Clark County Planning Commission late Tuesday unanimously approved the $5 billion Plaza project's development plans, which would include the largest casino on the Strip, for the New Frontier's 34.5-acre site.
The project is scheduled to go before Clark County commissioners Jan. 16 for final approval, with construction slated to start late next year. The project is expected to open in 2012.
"With today's economy going the way it is, all these things are beneficial and will add to the income on government revenues," Charley Johnson, the commission's vice chairman, said about the project that is being developed by Elad IDB Las Vegas, a joint venture between New York-based Elad Group and Property & Building Corp., a subsidiary of IDB Holdings Corp.
The mixed-use project will have a French Renaissance architectural style and will be modeled after New York City's Plaza Hotel.
The plan calls for 4,100 hotel rooms and 2,600 condominiums spread through six towers 671 feet high and a seventh tower reaching 577 feet.
The Plaza would also have 175,900 square feet of casino space, compared with the Bellagio's 160,000-square-foot casino, and Wynn Las Vegas' 110,000-square-foot casino.
Elad, which declined to comment, is also in talks with Wynn Resorts Ltd. and Boyd Gaming Corp. about sharing the costs of developing separate pedestrian bridges that would connect the three properties, according to testimony during the hearing.
The Wynn Las Vegas is east of the Plaza site across the Strip while Boyd Gaming's $4.8 billion Echelon project, which is scheduled to open in the fall of 2010, borders the site to the north.
Bill Lerner, gaming analyst for Deutsche Bank, noted that the project will benefit other planned properties on the Strip's northern end.
"If they execute their plans, they will create a whole lot of incremental value from The Venetian north to the Sahara," he said.
Projects in the area under construction include the $2.1 billion Encore adjacent to Wynn Las Vegas, the nearly completed $1.8 billion Palazzo adjacent to The Venetian and the $2.8 billion Fontainebleau and Echelon.
While the planners gave their approval, two lawsuits filed by two local businesses against Elad and the Plaza project are pending.
Depositions are being taken in a case filed by Resort Properties of America in U.S. District Court.
Local real estate broker David Atwell is seeking $12 million plus damages for unpaid fees. He says he helped initiate the $1.2 billion sale of the New Frontier to Elad from owner Phil Ruffin, a claim Elad has denied in court filings.
A court fight over who owns "The Plaza" name is also under way.
A preliminary injunction motion filed by Tamares Las Vegas Properties, owner of the 36-year-old downtown Plaza, is set for a Jan. 14 hearing in Clark County District Court.
Tamares argues in court papers that it owns the Nevada rights to the name while Elad claims it holds the U.S. trademark registration on the name.
Both cases are expected to go to trial next year.
THE PLAZA PLANS
Seven towers as high as 671 feet
4,100 hotel rooms
2,600 condominium units
134,500 square feet of restaurants
348,000 square feet of shops
539,607 square feet of convention space
50,000-square-foot health club
1,500 seat theater
Total project square footage is 15 million
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Copyright (c) 2007, Las Vegas Review-Journal
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