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Developer buying Las Vegas office complex destroyed in June fire

Eric Cohen was on vacation in St. Barts when he heard that, back home, a building he was buying had gone up in flames.

Cohen, a developer, was under contract to purchase The Park at 3900, a business center east of the Strip at 3900 Paradise Road. He has built apartment complexes around the valley, but this was a first – learning a future project site was ravaged by fire.

“That’s never happened to me on any project before,” he said.

Cohen, co-founder of The Calida Group, confirmed last week he is acquiring The Park at 3900, whose two-story office complex was destroyed in a massive blaze June 17. He said he wants to build a five-story, 400-unit apartment project where the offices stood.

As part of the deal, he is also buying the property’s retail buildings, which are in front of the office portion, and plans to renovate them.

He expects to close on the purchase in October or November.

Cohen isn’t the first apartment developer to eye The Park at 3900, and he was going to bulldoze the office complex anyway. But the fire, which displaced tenants but didn’t cause major injuries, “actually kind of helped us,” he said.

He is saving on demolition costs and might have had to buy out tenants’ leases, as he wanted to start construction before all of the rental contracts expired.

A demolition permit valued at $300,000 was issued Aug. 1 for the fire-damaged office complex, county records show. The site last week was still covered with debris, including massive steel beams and an apparent elevator shaft sticking out of the ground with part of a staircase attached to it.

Miami-based Rialto Capital, owner of The Park at 3900, did not respond to requests for comment Monday.

Developer Jonathan Fore had filed plans to replace the office complex with a five-story, 311-unit apartment project and some commercial space, county records show. He said last week that he backed out of the deal because some leases ran through 2026, making the redevelopment effort too risky.

The fire, he agreed, later made that concern a moot point.

The office complex was built in the mid-1980s, county records indicate, and was reduced to a partially collapsed, burned-out shell by the fire. At the time, Clark County Fire Chief Greg Cassell said no sprinklers had been installed, and it was unclear if the smoke detectors were working because the fire department was never contacted by an alarm company.

The fire was reported by someone staying at a nearby La Quinta Inn & Suites. Firefighters arrived around 3 a.m.; by 2:45 p.m., crews were still extinguishing the blaze.

One firefighter suffered a back strain and two others were hospitalized for heat exposure, but all of their injuries were minor, Cassell said.

Clark County Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan told the Review-Journal on Friday that a cause of the blaze had not been determined “as the fire is still under investigation.”

The Nevada Broadcasters Association, one of the displaced tenants, held staff meetings at Starbucks, at lunch gatherings, and in free office space provided by Silver State Schools Credit Union after the fire, said Mitch Fox, president and CEO of the association.

The group has found new offices at Eastern Avenue and the 215 Beltway, he said.

Fox was asleep when he was first notified of the fire, which occurred on a Monday. He said last week he was grateful it didn’t start at 10 a.m., when offices would have been occupied.

“That would have been disastrous,” he said.

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

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