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Former ‘economic cemetery’: North Strip showing more signs of life

Updated March 18, 2023 - 9:45 am

The north edge of the Strip was a bleak place a decade or so ago.

Las Vegas’ real estate meltdown left this stretch of the casino corridor with halted megaresort projects, sprawling land tracts where big developments never took shape, and little foot traffic. As a cigar shop owner there told me at the time, it was a “huge economic cemetery.”

The north Strip still isn’t overrun with tourists, and it still has big pieces of land. But the area has gained momentum — and now two developers are laying the groundwork for a potential new project there.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Tuesday approved selling a 10-acre lot for $125 million to local developer Brett Torino and New York’s Paul Kanavos. The site, at the southeast corner of Las Vegas and Elvis Presley boulevards, occupies part of the footprint where the Riviera stood.

In a phone interview this week, Torino said it was “premature” to discuss what he and Kanavos might build.

He asked, hypothetically, if the north Strip needs another hotel-casino, or if there’s something he and Kanavos could do to cater to business travelers.

‘Very appealing to us’

The pair have teamed up to build retail projects on the Strip before — albeit in a busier section — and Torino didn’t rule that out for their newest parcel. But he said they want to create something that’s a “true experience” and alluded to people being “outdoors-centric.”

“We think we have the ability to do something like that,” Torino told me.

The plot he and Kanavos are buying is just south of the 67-story Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a long-planned casino-resort that is under construction and scheduled to open in the fourth quarter.

The corner parcel is also near the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall. Both massive projects debuted in 2021.

Moreover, Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics have been looking at some sites in America’s casino capital for a potential new ballpark, including festival grounds at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

Torino pointed to this increased activity along the north Strip.

“It was very appealing to us,” he said.

‘Mother nature was deconstructing’

Torino, owner of Torino Companies, and Kanavos, chairman and CEO of Flag Luxury Group, partnered more than a decade ago to develop a three-story retail complex at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue.

The project, called Harmon Corner, features tenants such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Sugar Factory.

More recently, they built a four-story retail project called 63 at the southwest corner of the same intersection, next to luxury mall The Shops at Crystals at the multi-tower CityCenter complex.

It is slated to feature such tenants as Ocean Prime, whose operators said they would invest nearly $20 million in the seafood and steakhouse restaurant set to open this spring.

A decade ago, Torino recalled, there wasn’t anything he and Kanavos would have wanted to build on the north Strip.

He pointed to the “carcass” of the then-stalled Fontainebleau and the mothballed Echelon project that became Resorts World.

“It looked more like Mother Nature was deconstructing,” he recalled.

The north Strip is still a long way from resembling the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard where Torino and Kanavos built before, but it has made strides.

Torino pointed to “very significant events” in the area — and the timing, he believes, “is now.”

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

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