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Arnold M. Knightly

Dragon City site faces auction block

26 March 2009

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Local developer Andrew Lai's dream of turning an industrial stretch of Spring Mountain Road into a series of Asian-themed hotel-casinos near Chinatown appears to be teetering.

The 22-acre Dragon City resort site is scheduled to be auctioned May 16 at MGM Grand, during the International Council of Shopping Centers Convention.

A neighboring 6.6-acre site co-owned by Lai has been listed for sale at $29 million, while Clark County granted an extension until 2012 to begin construction on a third 2.39-acre site.

That site is slated for the Crowne Plaza project, a 386-room hotel-casino that is a partnership between Lai and Atlanta-based InterContinental Hotels Group.

Lai has not returned numerous e-mail and phone requests for comment since January. That is when he defaulted on a land loan connected to Dragon City and filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The land loan is on nine of the 22 acres, but the auction will need approval from Nevada bankruptcy court.

An agreement was reached March 9 with Community Bank of Nevada, which holds the $12.5 million bank note on the nine acres, to assign rents realized from businesses on the parcels to the bank.

The opening bid for the Dragon City resort site is set at $27.5 million, according to a release from the Chartwell Group Commercial Real Estate Brokers, which will be conducting the auction with Auction One Las Vegas.

Susan Hunt-Krygiell, a real estate agent and a minority investor in the Dragon City site and the neighboring 6.6-acre site, said the partnership would not comment while going through the bankruptcy proceedings.

Hunt-Krygiell listed the Dragon City Resort site, located on the northwest corner of Spring Mountain Road and Valley View Boulevard, for sale in January for nearly $100 million. The listing has been removed from her Web site.

The 22-acre site was pieced together between November 2002 and June 2007 for $25.1 million, records from the Clark County assessor show.

Hunt-Krygiell told the Review-Journal in May 2005 that the resort would "create a place where (tourists) could experience the restaurants, the shops, the entertainment and the overall feel of Chinatown."

Hunt-Krygiell said at the time they hoped to break ground in 2007.

The Dragon City site is entitled for 2,200 hotel rooms, 67,000 square feet of casino space, and 256,000 square feet of retail, restaurants, meeting and retail space.

Across Valley View Boulevard, the five parcels making up the 6.6-acre site were pieced together between October 2004 and September 2005 for $11.9 million, county records show.

That site is entitled for a 1,195-room hotel-casino, but no project was ever officially announced.

The 2.39-acre parcel on the northeast corner of Spring Mountain and Polaris Avenue is slated to be the site of the Crowne Plaza.

Lai received approval in January to push back the construction start date until July 2012 while he seeks "to obtain financing and finalize engineering for the project," according to documents submitted to the county.