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Aiming High on Paradise

20 July 2006

by Mike Kalil and Howard Stutz

LAS VEGAS -- The Beach nightclub on Paradise Road would be razed and a 600-room high-rise tower and casino would be squeezed onto its 1.25-acre site under a development plan that won initial approval from county officials this week.

With hotel rooms for tourists and condominiums for homebuyers, the as yet unnamed mixed-use project would meld the traditional Las Vegas gaming resort with the valley's still-expanding Manhattanization housing trend.

"It'll be a true hotel with 300 rooms rented by the night and 300 resort condominiums," said Greg Borgel, the land-use consultant working on the project for Three Sixty Five, the partnership group that owns The Beach.

Documents filed with Clark County show Three Sixty Five principal Rick Tuttle and his partners also plan a 20,000-square-foot casino and an 18,000-square-foot restaurant and lounge area in the 39-story building.

Borgel said the proposed tower is not too large a development to place on less than 2 acres.

"That's the new style," he said. "Up instead of out and big projects on small pads."

Since the condo tower trend began about three years ago, many projects have won municipal approval only to fizzle without adequate financing.

But Borgel said the investment Three Sixty Five has made on architectural planning, consultants and other pre-deveopment costs indicates the group is serious about building.

"This is a real deal," he said.

The Clark County Planning Commission on Monday unanimously approved lifting a height restriction to allow the proposed tower's 490-foot height, but county commissioners must still sign off on the project next month.

In recommending approval, county staff members noted that the project site on the southwest corner of Paradise and Convention Center Drive is near the Strip and seems a sensible area for future extension of the gaming resort corridor.

Although operated as a dance hot spot, The Beach already has a gaming license.

Industry analysts said developing the available locations along Paradise into full-scale casinos seems to be the next, logical step for gaming development.

"When there is a limited amount of space on the Strip, you start looking for the best convenient location just off the Strip," Morgan Joseph gaming analyst Adam Steinberg said. "If done properly, the potential is there."

Steinberg likened Paradise Road to the development on West Flamingo Road, where the Palms, Rio and Gold Coast casinos operate.

Redevelopment on the Strip could also affect Paradise Road. Any remodeling of the Sahara and Riviera, two large Strip casinos that are for sale and have automobile access from Paradise, could affect that location.

The former Wet 'n Wild water theme park is on 27 acres accessible from both the Strip and Paradise. Its owner, Archon Corp., has entered a deal for its sale, but the deal is not expected to close for another year. Plans call for a hotel-casino on the site.

Also, the Las Vegas Hilton, Paradise Road's prime tenant, sits on a 59-acre site. Colony Capital, which owns the Las Vegas Hilton, has said it was exploring a master plan for the location.

The Beach has fewer than 20 slot machines, which are managed by slot machine route operator Herbst Gaming. The nonrestricted gaming license, however, has been in place since before The Beach opened in October 1995, allowing the location to maintain its gaming status.

Owners will have to go through a licensing process to place a full Las Vegas-style casino on the site.

"If the location is grandfathered in, at that point it would suitable for a casino," Gaming Control Board member Mark Clayton said. "Whoever operates the casino would be subject to our general background check for licensing."

Before becoming The Beach, the facility housed two the ill-fated ventures.

The DaVille Casino opened in 1974, but was never operated as a casino with the operators never able to obtain licensing.

The location was sold in 1991 to two British brothers, who spent more than $9 million to open Sport of Kings, a stand-alone race and sports book with an emphasis on horse racing. The facility also included slot machines.

However, a drawn-out battle to win a gaming license kept the facility closed until it eventually opened in October 1992. The Sport of Kings never gained much of a following and the race book closed in December 1993.

Three Sixty Five's Tuttle and his partners bought the site for $3.9 million in March 1995 and remodeled the building into The Beach.

Although Piero's Italian restaurant is adjacent to The Beach, Borgel said the new tower will not physically affect the popular eatery's building.

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