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Abandoned property on Las Vegas Strip for sale again

Updated February 4, 2020 - 7:45 pm

The south edge of the Strip isn’t the most inviting place on one side of Las Vegas Boulevard, given its empty lots, boarded-up tavern and shuttered, 1950s-era motel behind barbed-wire-topped fencing.

Now one of the area’s blighted properties — the abandoned, partially built SkyVue observation-wheel project — is again up for sale, after a $400 million-plus deal fell through.

Brokerage firms Colliers International and Keen-Summit Capital Partners recently announced that 38.5 acres of real estate across from Mandalay Bay will come up for grabs at a bankruptcy auction May 19, with bids due April 30. The spread, which includes the SkyVue site, apartments and vacant plots, is being offered in whole or in pieces.

The auction is being overseen by a court-appointed trustee, and brokers said there is no asking price.

The sales effort is the latest attempt to pump life into a property on Las Vegas’ famed casino corridor that has seen big plans come and go over the years, like numerous other parcels around the valley.

A sale would also mark a new chapter for the SkyVue site, a towering eyesore on the Strip.

Developer Howard Bulloch, of Las Vegas-based Compass Investments, launched the project during the recession but never finished it, leaving two giant concrete columns that have been sticking out of the ground for years.

‘There’s nothing like it’

Bulloch owns the nearly 40-acre spread with his partner at Compass, David Gaffin, property records indicate. Bulloch could not be reached for comment. Gaffin declined to comment.

The case got underway after a petitioner with a $13 million claim stemming from a court judgment filed court papers in 2018 to push the property’s holding companies into bankruptcy.

Southern California attorney Kavita Gupta was appointed trustee in the case last year, and U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Gary Spraker approved bid procedures for the property about a month ago, court records show.

Matt Bordwin, a principal with New York-based Keen-Summit, said the court has decided “the time is now; the property has to sell.”

He cited its location — the property is near massive hotel-casinos and the Raiders’ under-construction football stadium west of the Strip — and its size.

“There’s nothing like it,” Bordwin said.

The property is “great real estate” and has been available in some form for many years, but its asking price coming out of the recession was probably too high, said Mike Mixer, executive managing director of Colliers’ Las Vegas office.

It was said to be priced in 2015 at more than $10 million an acre, or more than $385 million.

Vacant parcels on the Strip have traded hands in recent years, but sales have been far from brisk.

Fewer megaresorts are being built in Las Vegas than in years past, and Mixer indicated it’s hard to compete with the likes of casino giants MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment Corp.

“It’s harder to put those deals together,” he said.

Big plans

The property’s history is far from boring. Bulloch, Gaffin and partners announced in 2001 that they were weighing a London theme for their proposed 77-acre World Port Resorts project across from Mandalay Bay. It was never built.

By 2008, ex-NBA player Jackie Robinson and real estate veteran Michael Bellon had teamed up to develop a multibillion-dollar project on Bulloch and Gaffin’s property called Elysium. It called for condos and hotel rooms, a dome-covered ocean-beach swimming complex, and more, marketing materials said.

That, too, was never built.

In 2011, Bulloch announced that construction plans for a 500-foot-tall observation wheel — then called the Skyvue Las Vegas Super Wheel — were being finalized, and his group said in 2012 that it finished building the first phase.

But the project reportedly ran into financial problems and was never completed.

After the bankruptcy case got underway, Bulloch and Gaffin reached a deal to sell the south Strip holdings for $415.8 million in cash to a group of investors, according to court filings in fall 2018.

The buyers had plans for a resort hotel, court records show, but the sale never closed.

George Villar, a managing principal of New York-based Atelier Real Estate Partners, is named in the sales paperwork. He told the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Monday that he was the buyers’ advisor but declined to comment on the transaction, noting he is under a nondisclosure agreement.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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