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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- At 80 acres, the site of the $1 billion M Resort is larger than MGM Mirage's 76-acre CityCenter development, which has a $7.8 billion budget.
But unlike MGM Mirage, M Resort developer Anthony Marnell III isn't ready to build out the entire site at the far southern end of Las Vegas Boulevard quite yet. The initial phase, calling for an 11-story tower with 390 hotel rooms, 90,000 square feet of gaming, eight restaurants and 40,000 square feet of meeting space, is enough to satisfy the current west Henderson community.
"We're really in no hurry. We want to see what the market says and the market wants," Marnell said Wednesday morning, surveying the early stages of the M Resort's construction. Site work began Sept. 1 and the project has an opening target of spring 2009.
"I believe we have the right program to get started, but I think it's going to take a year or so after opening to feel things out and see where development goes," Marnell said, adding the entire project could have a 10-year time line.
Marnell said he's modeling M Resort somewhat after the Rio, which was built by his father, casino construction pioneer Tony Marnell and sold to Harrah's Entertainment in 1999. The Rio initially catered to a local crowd but grew into more of a Strip destination resort.
M Resort has entitlements from the city of Henderson to build 3,000 hotel rooms, 3,000 condominium units and 1 million square feet of retail space on the site. But the younger Marnell, who held corporate marketing positions at the Rio, said M Resort will initially have an emphasis on the local market.
"(South Point owner) Michael Gaughan is the pioneer of the south Strip, but we see this location as having incredible potential," Marnell said.
The M Resort sits near the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway. A full interchange at Interstate 15 and St. Rose Parkway is nearly completed. Meanwhile the Inspirada master planned community, which will have some 13,500 home sites, is under construction just to the east of M Resort.
"This could be a very interesting story," Marnell said. "It could become the major hub or the center of economic development for west Henderson.
The initial investment of $1 billion -- $700 million for construction and $300 million for the land -- was given a boost in April by MGM Mirage, which is financing $160 million of the project through a subordinated convertible note. MGM Mirage can convert the note into a 50 percent equity interest in the resort 18 months after it is issued if it has not been repaid. Marnell said he looks to MGM Mirage executives often times for advice.
"They are very important partners," he said.
During a brief tour of the site, Marnell pointed out one of the selling points that will be made to potential customers; the land was reconfigured and M Resort will sit 400 feet higher in elevation than the Strip, providing views of the Las Vegas skyline from every hotel room, restaurant, patio, pool deck, and the lobby.
M Resort, which will have a contemporary Italian design, will also offer a 20,000-square-foot spa and 100,000-square-foot pool area.
While construction proceeds, Marnell said hiring plans are being formulated for the property's expected 2,000 workers. With a crunch for employees expected, Marnell said M Resort should open ahead of Wynn Resort's $2.2 billion Encore and CityCenter, which has plans to hire 12,000 workers.
"We see an influx of workers into the city and we feel good because we're not competing in the big war down there," Marnell said.
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