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Chris Jones

Developers Envision 73-Story Tower of Condominiums on Strip

23 August 2004

Refusing to settle for pie in the sky when they're promising to actually build there, a pair of Australian developers said late Thursday they'll soon erect Las Vegas' tallest habitable structure directly north of the Sahara.

How they'll come up with the requisite $700 million remains a mystery, but partner Joseph Di Mauro insists his group's proposed 940-foot residential tower will become a high-class gateway to downtown Las Vegas, likely within the next 36 months.

"It's real estate of substantial significance in Las Vegas, and as such, we believe that it demanded a building of some great significance on it," Di Mauro said of the roughly 2-acre lot at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard South and Sahara Avenue that's now occupied by the dormant Holy Cow casino/brew pub and a small, multilevel parking garage.

Di Mauro and partner Victor Altomare plan to raze those structures and replace them with a 73-story condominium tower called The Summit. Its grandiose design calls for nine floor plans totaling 960 units capped by a nearly 15,700-square-foot penthouse builders hope to sell for more than $35 million.

Entry-level units would likely cost $600,000 to $700,000, Di Mauro said.

Di Mauro said he Altomare are acting as the "public faces" for a company called Sahara Condominiums. The business has yet to build anything in Nevada, though the city of Las Vegas on Aug. 4 approved its plans for a 21-floor condo project called Liberty Tower at 1801 Las Vegas Blvd. South near the Stratosphere.

That permit was requested by JMA Architecture Studios -- which designed Liberty Tower and The Summit -- on behalf of a party called Harvard Securities. JMA on Thursday said Di Mauro and Altomare are backing both towers.

County records show the Holy Cow site is owned by Rinkai America and KSK Property Management. The three parcels in question were acquired in separate deals completed in December 1996 and November 1999 at a total cost of about $16.4 million.

Di Mauro said his group now owns the land, which would suggest a relationship with Rinkai and/or KSK, though he declined to reveal specific details on the other parties involved with The Summit.

"It's a group, a conglomerate, that's working on this project," Di Mauro said. "The group has vast experience. ... We don't really want to disclose who's involved in this at this time but eventually we will."

Di Mauro also declined to reveal what else he and Altomare have developed, saying the duo prefers to concentrate on The Summit. When asked directly if his shadow partners have the money needed to build The Summit, Di Mauro said: "Yes. We wouldn't be doing it if we didn't."

Di Mauro added: "I suppose the proof will be in the pudding, won't it? Once the building starts to go up people will see if we're serious or not."

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said Friday downtown's Las Vegas Premium Outlets mall and World Market Center projects were initially greeted with skepticism by some at City Hall before they later transformed the area. While he knows little about The Summit tower plan, Goodman said he's always willing to help those with an interest in building downtown.

"You keep your fingers crossed and pray that you see the end result," Goodman said. "You have to treat every one of these things very seriously, but with a redevelopment area usually it's 1 of 10 projects that come to fruition. I think we're doing a lot better than that" in Las Vegas.

Goodman said the city has not yet looked into Di Mauro and Altomare's finances because they have not asked for any public assistance.

"If we're making a deal, then we're going to find out who we're dealing with," Goodman said. "If a private company goes in, buys a piece of land and builds a building, all we say is, `God bless you.' "

If built, The Summit would be taller than the 64-story, 645-foot hotel/condominium tower New York developer Donald Trump and New Frontier owner Phil Ruffin announced in late July. That $300 million project, the Trump International Hotel and Tower, is marked for vacant land Ruffin owns north of the Fashion Show mall near Industrial Road.

Di Mauro said he hopes to complete the permitting process within three months and begin selling slots at The Summit sometime before Christmas. Sales offices in Australia and Asia will play a role in marketing what he called a project of "national significance."

The Summit will take about three years to complete, Di Mauro said.