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Arnold M. Knightly

High times on horizon around Planet Hollywood Resort

13 November 2007

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Construction crews on the southeast side of Planet Hollywood Resort are busy on the first phase of a $1.2 billion time share development by Orlando, Fla.-based Westgate Resorts.

The first phase of Planet Hollywood Towers by Westgate, is being built on four acres. The first of two 50-story towers is scheduled to open in August 2009.

The project's second phase will include a second tower of the same size. There's no schedule for the building or completion of the second tower.

The Westgate project, topping out at 535 feet, will be approximately 100 feet taller than the Planet Hollywood hotel tower. In all, the project will have 1,280 units.

When an investment group led by restaurateur Robert Earl bought the bankrupt 2,567-room Aladdin in 2004, the group knew it wanted to add rooms to the property. But with the nearly 4,000-room Bellagio next door and the 4,000-hotel room CityCenter under construction on the other side, Earl and his partners wanted more than just rooms.

"Critical mass is the key to our success," Earl said, adding that he didn't want to jump into the condominium craze overtaking the Strip. "We wanted the dynamic of the time-share hotel. It is an extremely potentially profitable business."

Earl approached his Orlando, Fla., neighbor and longtime friend David Siegel, the Florida-based time-share developer behind Westgate, with his idea.

Siegel jumped at the chance; he'd been trying to break into the Strip market for nearly a decade.

His plans to develop a time share at local sites -- New Frontier, the former Debbie Reynolds Hotel, the Riviera, Las Vegas Hilton and the Aladdin -- never came to fruition.

The developer does own the Westgate Flamingo Bay Club on Las Vegas Boulevard south of the Las Vegas Beltway.

The first tower will be 10 floors taller than the hotel-casino's hotel tower. The rooms will be used for hotel guests when not in use by time-share owners.

When completed, the towers will be the world's largest time-share complex at 3.2 million square feet, Siegel said.

Although the time shares are on the property's backside, the towers' upper floors will have a Strip view.

The 250-person construction crew has reached the 16th floor of the first tower and is adding a floor a week. An additional 850 trade workers will soon join the project.

The top four floors will be condominiums ranging from 3,000 square feet to 10,000 square feet. The 46th floor will have a private pool.

Construction on the second tower will start soon after the first tower is completed, Siegel said.

While the time share units are for sale, the condo units have yet to hit the market.

Marketing the new project has been like "shooting fish in a barrel," Siegel said.

"This is the only opportunity anyone is ever going to have to own a piece of the Strip and not have to buy a condominium," he said. "They can buy one week and go home and have the bragging rights they own property on the Strip."

The towers will connect to the resort through a 100-foot entrance to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood.

The other 12 time shares with Las Vegas Boulevard addresses are not connected to a major resort and do not have a casino.

The possibility of having a casino in the Westgate lobby is being discussed.