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A midmorning thunderstorm Tuesday wasn't going to deter developers of the $1.8 billion Cosmopolitan from holding the project's formal groundbreaking. The event was going to happen even if it meant moving the planned outdoor ceremony inside the sales center.
The Cosmopolitan, nearly a year in planning, hasn't drawn the attention afforded similar Strip high-rise condominium-hotel projects, such as Donald Trump's Trump International Hotel and Tower behind the New Frontier.
Plans by well-known Las Vegas casino companies, such as MGM Mirage's 66-acre, $5 billion Project CityCenter -- which surrounds the 8.5-acre Cosmopolitan site -- have also overshadowed the Cosmopolitan.
But neither lack of attention nor rain would stop Ian Bruce Eichner, chief executive officer of 3700 Associates, from parading the 3,000-room Cosmopolitan in front of some 150 real estate brokers, government officials, builders, media and interested observers.
Cosmopolitan developers couldn't execute the actual groundbreaking ceremony Tuesday; a backhoe cracking the asphalt behind the sales center sat idle.
But Eichner, who has developed more than 6 million square feet of high-rise residential, office, hospitality and retail in New York City and Miami Beach over the past 30 years, seemed unfazed by the weather.
"About six people in the last two minutes told me a little rain brings good luck," Eichner said.
Eichner hardly seemed to need luck to generate sales at the Cosmopolitan. He said more than 1,300 condominium units were reserved in less than 120 days, Eichner said and all have been converted to sales contracts. He said another 700 condominium units are expected to be put on the market shortly.
"We have $100 million in nonrefundable deposits. I think that underscores the strength of this project," Eichner said.
Hyatt Corp., through the worldwide Grand Hyatt brand, will manage the 1,000 Cosmopolitan hotel-only rooms and will also handle the condominium leasing program, in which owners can rent out their units when not in use. A condo-hotel differs from other condominium projects because it allows individual owners to place their units in a rental pool and lease them out.
"For decades, we've looked at getting a location for the Hyatt name on the Strip," said Thomas Pritzker, chairman of Global Hyatt Corp. "I don't thing we could have chosen a better location."
Construction has begun on some of the Cosmopolitan infrastructure. Perini Building Co. is expected begin removing more than 1 million cubic yards of dirt from the site to create a 90-foot-deep excavation that will house a 3,800-space parking garage.
"We're putting more than 5 million square feet of development on an 8 1/2-acre site," Eichner said.
The Cosmopolitan project will include a 75,000-square-foot casino, 300,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, entertainment venues and 150,000 square feet of meeting space.
Eichner showed a model of the Cosmopolitan to groundbreaking attendees in a makeshift theater in the round. He pointed out several rooftop locations on which outdoor pool areas, including a 5-acre beach club, will be constructed to overlook the Strip.
"We're bringing an iconic structure to the Strip, one that creates a new cultural paradigm," Eichner said.
Eichner, 3700 Associates President David Friedman and Pritzker unveiled glass-shrouded dual hotel towers that will rise 600 feet above the Strip. The sales office opened its studio and one-bedroom model rooms of 600 square feet and 1,300 square feet.
The Cosmopolitan will front Las Vegas Boulevard at the corner of Harmon Avenue, just south of Bellagio, with a transparent glass facade that will allow passers-by and Strip traffic to see inside the restaurants, retail and other public portions.
Eichner said the project's minimal attention did not worry him. What he lacked in previous Las Vegas building credentials didn't deter his efforts.
"I'm a newcomer and we're not a publicly traded company," Eichner said. "We believe this represents a new era in Las Vegas development."
The Cosmopolitan developers said the project would open in mid-2008 and create about 5,000 jobs.
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