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LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- New York developer Donald Trump was happy to be topping-off the final floor of the 64-story Trump International Hotel & Tower on Friday morning, some 22 months after breaking ground on the development behind the New Frontier.
But the billionaire builder and reality television star was even happier the project was saving him a few dollars.
Trump said his first Las Vegas high-rise, a 1,282-unit nongaming hotel and condominium tower, is three months ahead of schedule and under the planned $600 million budget for the development's first phase.
"That's pretty good, considering this is Las Vegas and all the construction that is happening," Trump said in an interview before celebrating the building's milestone. "We've hit a big home run with this tower."
Trump credited Perini Building Co., the project's general contractor, with helping speed construction. He took credit himself for locking in building costs before the July 2005 groundbreaking.
Residences in the first tower, ranging from studios to three-bedroom penthouse suites, sold for $1.3 billion. Sales began on the second tower's 1,280 units in April, and Trump said reservations have been taken less than half of the units.
However, rising construction costs will drive up the price of the second tower. Trump expects the current $1.2 billion price for the entire project to escalate.
"I'm not sure if the second tower will be as successful as the first one because the costs will be as much as 50 percent higher," Trump said.
Perini Building Vice Chairman Dick Rizzo thought costs would increase, but perhaps not as much as Trump predicted; they may rise possibly 15 percent to 20 percent higher, he said. Rizzo added, though, that feverish construction along the Strip continues to tax the building industry.
"We had about 800 workers at peak construction on this project," Rizzo said. "Construction costs are going up all over."
Perini not only serves as general contractor on Trump but is also overseeing the building of the $7.4 billion CityCenter for MGM Mirage and the $3 billion Cosmopolitan. Other Strip projects include the $2.1 billion Encore at Wynn Las Vegas and the $1.6 billion Palazzo. Boyd Gaming Corp. expects to break ground next month on the $4.4 billion Echelon.
Rizzo said the design of the Trump International, which does not have a casino, makes the project one of the more simpler buildings to construct.
Trump, who once owned shares of the Riviera's parent company and has been linked to casino ventures up and down the Strip, basked in the glow of the topping-off event.
About 200 media members, VIPs and construction workers packed the half-finished lobby of the Trump International to watch while Trump, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, Rizzo and project architect Joel Bergman gave the thumbs up to crane operators as an American flag was hoisted 645 feet to the top of the building. The project is not within the Las Vegas city limits, but that didn't stop Goodman from sharing the stage with Trump.
It will still be at least the middle of next year before residents can move in.
The topping-off ceremony carried all the pizzazz of Trump's celebrity, heightened through his best-selling business books and development ventures throughout the United States that carry his name. Guests were shuttled over to the construction site on buses, but Trump arrived in a stretch limousine.
The Trump International was featured in April on an episode of Trump's reality TV show, "The Apprentice." The show was left off NBC's fall lineup announced this month, and it's uncertain if it will return.
Stefanie Schaeffer, who a month ago was crowned as Trump's sixth, and possibly final, apprentice winner, served as the event's mistress of ceremonies.
Schaeffer, a Los Angeles attorney, won a position working on Trump's venture in the Dominican Republic. However, with $357 million in sales completed on that project, she hopes to be spending some of her time in Las Vegas working with Jack Christie, vice president of sales and marketing for the Trump International.
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