Monday, June 05, 2006

Developers sell George Clooney-backed condo project site in Las Vegas

Developers sell George Clooney-backed condo project site in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS (AP) - The site of a proposed $3 billion (euro2.3 billion) hotel, condominium and casino complex backed by George Clooney has been sold to a competitor, the latest in a series of high-rise projects here that have been scrapped before groundbreaking.
Real estate developer Related Las Vegas and its partners - Las Vegas-based Centra Properties and Clooney's business partner, nightclub owner Rande Gerber - told The Associated Press they have scrapped plans to build the "vintage Vegas'' resort and plan to return condo reservation deposits on Monday.
Edge Group, developers of the adjacent W Las Vegas condominium-hotel project, paid Related and its partners $202 million (euro158 million) for the 25-acre (10-hectare) site - more than twice what Related paid a year ago for the plot just off the Las Vegas Strip.
Related Las Vegas President Marty Burger said rising construction costs and slowed sales forced the group to rethink its 4,400-unit complex.
A redesign that added more hotel rooms to the mix would have meant adding more casino space, he said.
"For us, it became more about gaming than the residential community we were trying to build,'' Burger said.
"We're the largest developer of residential property in the country, and we saw ourselves getting away from what we do best.''
When first announced in August, Clooney pitched the project, to be called Las Ramblas, as a resort with a classic, tuxedo-and-martini feel. Clooney said he was disappointed by the sale, and hasn't given up on real estate.
"I'll donate my profits from the sale to the African Debt Relief Project,'' Clooney said in a statement.
"And I guess I'll find someplace else to gamble.''
Edge Group said it plans to develop an upscale, boutique hotel-casino complex, noting it will now control 50 acres in the immediate area.
"We can control what the identity is there,'' said Adam Frank, president of Edge Group.
Related Las Vegas - the local development arm of The Related Companies in New York and The Related Group of Florida - made a splash in the Las Vegas market last year, announcing plans for the 11-tower Las Ramblas, the two-tower Icon condominium complex and a master plan for the heart of the city's urban renewal effort.
Talks with the city fell apart and Icon was canceled in January.
Las Ramblas was named for a fashionable and pedestrian-friendly area in Barcelona, Spain, that boasts a promenade and cafes.
The fates of several condo projects are uncertain and others have been canceled in the past year, according to Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas real-estate research firm.
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