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Chris Jones

Center Strives to Keep Rolling

26 July 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- In the 14 months since it welcomed its first tenants, World Market Center has steadily increased its momentum.

And with 50,000 or so people and 1,500 exhibitors again gathered this week in downtown Las Vegas, executives with the planned $3 billion furniture market are doing all they can to keep things rolling hard into 2007 and beyond.

"Our intent is to go full bore. We want (visitors) to be sure that we've delivered what we've promised," Chief Operating Officer Gerry Sawyer said Tuesday.

"In our first five years, there was a lot of doubt about this project and would it really happen. ... Now the industry knows we're the real deal."

The proof, Sawyer says, stems from two massive towers that people pass each morning.

More such proof will soon follow.

World Market Center executives on Tuesday led a VIP tour of Building B, a 1.6 million-square-foot tower shadowing Interstate 15 just north of Charleston Boulevard.

Tenants will begin moving into the 16-story tower in October, Shawn Samson, a World Market Center managing partner, said this week.

The $345 million tower is fully leased, and World Market Center last October began leasing its $500 million third tower.

At that time, plans called for a 20-story building with 2 million square feet. Details released this week instead show a 16-story tower with 2.1 million square feet; general manager Dave Palmer said the reduced height allows for better connectivity with Building B next door.

Rumors recently swirled that leasing for Building C was not going well. Samson declined to cite current leasing rates, but he said "a significant waiting list" is in place.

Palmer said sales were "strong enough that they've released construction" funding, while Sawyer said simply, "We've already ordered the steel."

Construction will begin in September so that a 145,000-square-foot foundation will be in place before attendees and exhibitors return for winter market early next year.

When Building C opens in July 2008, World Market Center will include 5 million square feet of permanent showroom space, plus 345,000 square feet of space in temporary tents downtown.

Building A opened last summer with 1.3 million square feet. Plans call for eight buildings totaling 12 million square feet by 2013.

Atlanta-based Englander Mattress is among those counting down the days until it can move into its new digs, a 4,200-square-foot space on Building B's eighth floor.

Last summer the company exhibited at the Las Vegas Furniture Show, a competing event at the Sands Expo and Convention Center.

In late 2005, Englander leased space from World Market Center, which allowed it to group with other future tenants showing products at Mandalay Bay, the off-site venue for January's winter market.

This time around Englander's 10-person sales staff is working from the Pavilions, three temporary tents placed on the northern end of World Market Center's 57-acre downtown campus.

"We've progressively moved closer to the main event," said John Hagglund, president of Englander's northwest division.

Moving into a permanent site should boost foot traffic, Hagglund said, particularly because the presence of other bedding manufacturers will form a critical mass to lure more buyers. The Building B site will also make it easier to meet with vendors and other back-of-the-house partners in town during the market.

This year's summer market has been slow, Hagglund said, because many store owners stayed home in what's been a down sales year for the furniture industry. Despite their absence, traffic at World Market Center exceeds that encountered during two decades of showing at San Francisco's furniture mart, he said.

World Market Center's summer market, which is closed to the public, concludes Friday.