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Gaming Guru

Hubble Smith

$300 Million Project Planned for Las Vegas

2 February 2004

LAS VEGAS -- Florida-based Turnberry Associates has joined with Centra Properties to develop a 100-acre parcel that sits in the "cross hairs" of Las Vegas Valley, an executive said Friday.

The companies closed escrow for $25.5 million last week on the 25-acre Vacation Village site, completing land purchases at Interstates 15 and 215 that began last year when Centra acquired 57 acres from Howard Hughes Corp.

Jim Stuart, principal of Centra and developer of industrial and office parks in Las Vegas, said plans have been submitted for a 1.5 million-square-foot mixed-use project that is slated to be completed in 12 to 18 months.

It will have a 20-screen cinema complex, restaurant row, farmer's market and entertainment venues.

The site is zoned for gaming, but whether the developers will pursue that route is undecided, Stuart said.

"I want to have a place to take the kids and you don't have to walk through the casino," he said. "We're not building it for tourists, we're building it for locals."

The cost of the project was estimated at $300 million by Richard Lee of First American Title Co. of Nevada, speaking at Preview Las Vegas on Thursday.

Stuart said he doesn't know where those figures originated. Turnberry, which purchased Centra's land interest and bought out its investors, controls the purse strings on the project, he said.

Jeffrey Soffer, son of Turnberry Associates founder Don Soffer, was unavailable for comment.

The acquisition of Vacation Village from Shawn Scott, who purchased the company out of bankruptcy for about $18 million two years ago, adds an important piece of the puzzle for the developers -- frontage on the Strip.

"It's not about the fact we bought Vacation Village," Stuart said. "Between Turnberry and Centra, for just under $60 million, we assembled 100 acres bordered by the Strip, I-15 and I-215. It is Main (Street) and Main for our community. What can you create on 100 acres in the heart of our city and a tourist center?"

Whatever it is, it will have to be less than 100 feet in height, as the land is within McCarran International Airport's air space. Stuart said he's working with McCarran and the FAA to make the use is compatible with the area.

Stuart said he and his partner, Kenny Sullivan, were ready to pull permits for an industrial complex that Centra had originally planned for the 57 acres.

It would have worked, Stuart believes, but was that the highest and best use for the land?

"I spent a great deal of time agonizing over this decision. When we looked at the opportunity to acquire Vacation Village and 14 acres in between, it was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," he said.

Turnberry has been a market leader in Las Vegas with its high-rise luxury condominium Turnberry Towers on Paradise Road. Three of the four towers are complete.

The Florida developer also entered into a joint venture with MGM Mirage for The Residences at MGM Grand, a 600-unit condo-hotel.

"For Kenny and I, what was more relevant is they build at a level of quality that is never compromised," Stuart said.

Turnberry has developed 20 million square feet of retail, including one of the country's larger malls in Aventura, Fla.