Real Estate:

Developer fashions plan for Las Vegas expo center off I-15 near Strip

A view of vacant land west of Mandalay Bay on Thursday, Aug. 28, 2014. Developer Jack Kashani is said to be buying the 63-acre parcel to build a two million-square-foot fashion-industry expo center.

Developer Jack Kashani, who helped launch the World Market Center furniture-expo hall, has his sights on another massive showcase center for Las Vegas, even though his first one was marred by financial and legal woes.

Kashani is rumored to be under contract to buy 63 acres of vacant land behind Mandalay Bay just west of Interstate 15, with plans to build the 2 million-square-foot International Fashion Center with 2,000 showrooms, according to brokers familiar with the deal. Two of them said Kashani is paying $90 million for the property, but another pegged the price at $75 million.

Kashani has been talking for years about building the fashion-industry expo hall at various sites in the valley, brokers said. He even has a website, which features renderings of the project behind Mandalay Bay and advertises showroom space to would-be exhibitors.

One rendering shows models walking a runway built over a swimming pool, with fountains shooting from the water, poolside cabanas with white tents, and men and women walking around the pool, mingling and drinking cocktails, in the middle of the afternoon under blue skies.

Reached on the phone number he lists on the website, Kashani would not discuss the project.

“I can’t make any comments,” he said before any questions were asked.

There’s no guarantee Kashani will acquire the land or build his expo center, which would carry a huge price tag. Construction financing is easier to obtain than a few years ago but remains out of reach for many developers, especially in economically wobbly Las Vegas.

As it stands, Kashani has the website and apparently little else for the Fashion Center, though he's been making presentations to businesspeople.

“It’s a strange deal,” a personal familiar with the matter said.

If he pulls it off, though, the expo center would do well in Las Vegas, given its visibility off I-15, the city’s proximity to Los Angeles and the popularity of fashion trade show MAGIC, said real estate broker Mike Mixer, executive managing director of Colliers International’s local office.

“It’s a great site for that use,” Mixer said.

MAGIC, or Men’s Apparel Guild in California, is held twice a year in Las Vegas and is one of the largest conventions in town. It first came to Las Vegas in 1989, with about 25,000 attendees. It lured an estimated 84,000 people to its February 2013 gathering and 80,000 last August.

Those were the fourth- and fifth-largest trade shows of the year, said Heidi Hayes, spokeswoman for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Developers have long eyed Kashani’s desired project site. Plans were pitched in the mid-1990s for two eight-story, 300-room hotels with casinos, Clark County records show, and then investors bought the property in 2006, reportedly for more than $200 million.

True to the excesses of the boom years, that group laid out plans for a 7-million-square-foot hotel-condo-casino project with nine towers, 6,549 rooms and a 10,200-space parking garage, according to county records.

And true to the real estate bust, the land remains empty and is owned by lenders who foreclosed in 2009. They include European banking giants Barclays and Credit Suisse; Dallas investment firm Highland Capital Management; and Dallas lender NexBank.

Highland spokeswoman Shannon Wherry said the firm “cannot comment at this time” on the Kashani deal. Credit Suisse spokesman Drew Benson declined to comment, and efforts to get comments from Barclays and NexBank were unsuccessful.

The group’s listing broker, Rick Hildreth of Land Advisors Organization, did not return calls seeking comment.

Kashani and partner Shawn Samson developed the World Market Center, now known as the Las Vegas Market, with New York-based Related Cos. The downtown expo hall, on Grand Central Parkway at Bonneville Avenue, opened in 2005 as a 1.3 million-square-foot building. Within a few years, the investors added two other buildings that brought the complex’s total size to 5 million square feet.

However, they ran into problems during the recession, with vacant showrooms and some tenants not paying their rent. In March 2011, lenders claiming to be owed $46.6 million sued the ownership group, threatening to foreclose on at least part of the complex. A week later, a judge approved the lenders’ request to have a receiver take charge of at least part of the property.

In May 2011, investment firms Bain Capital and Oaktree Capital Management bought the expo hall, though Kashani kept a small ownership stake, according to a person familiar with the matter.