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City OKs high-rise jewelry tower plan

Plans for a high-rise tower dedicated to the jewelry industry received Las Vegas City Council approval on Wednesday. It is the first of several projects expected to move forward this year in what’s known as Union Park.

The deal calls for developer Heritage-Nevada VIII to pay $10.1 million for 5.8 acres on the north end of the city-owned Union Park development on the west side of downtown. There, the company plans to build a $927 million, 50-story World Jewelry Center with office, residential and retail space aimed at making Las Vegas a center for jewelry and gemstone businesses worldwide.

Construction is expected to begin in 2009 and wrap up in 2012. Nearly 70 companies from North America, Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa and Australia have agreed to participate, according to the company’s Web site.

Union Park consists of 61 acres bounded by Bonneville Avenue on the south, Ogden Avenue to the north, Grand Central Parkway to the west and the Union Pacific Railroad tracks to the east. The property has languished for years as a possible arena or City Hall site, but lately has moved forward as a densely developed tract with varied occupants.

The Lou Ruvo Brain Institute is under construction on the south end of the property, and in the next two months plans are expected for a Charlie Palmer-branded hotel and restaurant and a 400-room Kimpton Hotel location along with a medical office building.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is expected to break ground at Union Park later this year.

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