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Eclipse Theaters site in Las Vegas was eyed for luxury condo tower

Updated April 19, 2019 - 6:56 pm

Eclipse Theaters, the luxury multiplex in downtown Las Vegas, has been hit with several lawsuits the past few years and faces foreclosure.

But during the mid-2000s bubble, a developer set out to build a luxury condo tower where Eclipse now stands — and if he had followed through, it could have been a financial disaster.

“We would have been the Fontainebleau of downtown,” developer Sam Cherry said.

Cherry, the chief executive of Cherry Development, built two condo towers downtown — the 16-story Soho Lofts and the 22-story Newport Lofts — during last decade’s real estate craze. He also drew up plans for the much larger 65-story Stanhi at the southwest corner of Third Street and Gass Avenue — Eclipse’s future home — but never built it.

Cherry was part of the high-rise mania known as the “Manhattanization” of Las Vegas. With easy money sloshing around for builders and buyers alike, developers were pitching plans for towers around the valley, from the Strip and downtown to the suburbs.

Most of the proposed high-rises were never built, with a few abandoned as giant holes.

Among the completed towers, several faced litigation, plunging sales or other problems after the economy crashed.

Overall, Las Vegas was blighted with numerous abandoned projects during the recession, and Cherry said this week that Stanhi “absolutely” could have been one of them.

‘Nothing was making sense’

According to news reports, Cherry unveiled plans for Stanhi in 2005. City records showed plans for a 760-foot-tall tower with 425 residential units and around 22,000 square feet of ground-floor commercial space.

Cherry said he shaved the tower’s height to about 40 stories and that he had a sales center, that he paid more than $4 million for project plans, and that buyers put down deposits for more than half of the units.

But the economy only worsened.

As Cherry tells it, he had a roughly $460,000 check in hand to pull the building permit for Stanhi’s foundation. But he had second thoughts about the project and balked at getting the permit.

He couldn’t recall exactly when he’d done that but figured it was around the time that investment giant Lehman Brothers collapsed in September 2008, helping trigger the financial crisis.

He was hearing more and more bad news about the economy, and while he didn’t want to spike his $200 million condo project, he had “a feeling” that something was off.

“Nothing was sitting right. … Nothing was making sense,” he said.

Cherry said Stanhi was going to be bankrolled by Corus Bank, a Chicago lender that was shut down in 2009 as the economy spiraled, and whose collapse could have left Stanhi in limbo.

‘Toe’ in the market

Ultimately, Cherry sold the project site in 2010 for $810,000. In 2014, with the economy still shaky but on stronger footing, Eclipse developer Nic Steele bought the 0.8-acre parcel for $3 million, property records show.

Steele opened the eight-screen, 72,000-square-foot movie house in late 2016. Since, Eclipse has been hit with several lawsuits alleging missed payments, and its $7.5 million construction loan went into default, records show.

The property’s foreclosure auction, previously scheduled for April 16, was postponed to April 30.

Las Vegas’ once-pummeled construction industry has come back to life the past several years, but no one has built a residential tower here for probably close to a decade.

Cherry didn’t rule out trying to put up another one, saying he’s “looking forward” to building Stanhi “in the future.” But his first residential development since before the recession is decidedly smaller: a 63-unit apartment complex.

As he described it, he’s putting a “toe back in the market.”

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

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