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Developers buying small plot on Strip for $80M

Updated April 26, 2021 - 6:40 pm

Several years after the never-finished Harmon hotel was dismantled, developers are buying its small plot on the Strip for about $80 million and plan to build a retail complex.

Las Vegas developer Brett Torino and the heads of New York-based Flag Luxury Group reached a deal to buy 2 acres in CityCenter for the huge sum, according to an announcement Monday from MGM Resorts International.

The sale — by MGM and its partner in the sprawling CityCenter complex, government-owned holding company Dubai World — is expected to close within the next few months, according to the news release.

Southern Nevada’s tourism-dependent economy was devastated by the coronavirus outbreak, and the fallout from the pandemic had for the most part not been kind to the Strip’s real estate market. But the latest sale amounts to roughly $40 million per acre, a sky-high valuation that exceeds land deals on Las Vegas Boulevard even during the frenzied mid-2000s real estate bubble.

Torino and Flag Luxury’s bosses are acquiring a parcel at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, next to luxury mall The Shops at Crystals. According to MGM, they plan to develop a multilevel complex with “specialty retail and casual and fine dining.”

MGM spokesman Brian Ahern confirmed the site was previously occupied by the Harmon hotel tower, a structurally flawed project that sparked massive litigation and was ultimately dismantled.

Asked if MGM considered developing other projects there before it decided to sell, Ahern said the company doesn’t have any additional comments beyond Monday’s news release.

The buyers are no strangers to the Strip. According to news articles and other published accounts, Torino and Flag Luxury teamed up to develop retail centers Hawaiian Marketplace and Harmon Corner, with the latter sitting across Las Vegas Boulevard from their new parcel.

Efforts to speak with Torino and Flag Luxury Chairman and CEO Paul Kanavos were unsuccessful Monday.

A representative said in an email that the development group has “more than 22 years working together on significant projects on the East and West Coast” and that Torino has lived in Las Vegas for more than 47 years and boasts a dozen-plus projects on the Strip.

The newly acquired parcel’s up-and-down history dates to 2004 during Las Vegas’ real estate craze, when MGM Mirage, as MGM Resorts was formerly known, unveiled plans for Project CityCenter, as the venture was then called.

The 67-acre, $8.5 billion CityCenter features a cluster of hotels and high-rise condo buildings — Aria, Vdara, Waldorf Astoria (formerly Mandarin Oriental) and Veer Towers — as well as The Shops at Crystals.

It also was supposed to include the Harmon hotel, but work stopped in 2008 after inspectors found structural defects, with an engineer stating that the building could collapse in a strong earthquake, according to news reports.

The stalled project led to a massive court battle involving contractors and the developers. A lawyer in the case, which settled in 2014, noted that just a list of exhibits — not the exhibits themselves — filled 100 banker’s boxes, The Associated Press previously reported.

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

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