Real estate:

Half-price sale: Vacant land on north Strip — $16M an acre

Development company Triple Five is trying to sell a 5.4-acre property on the north Strip for $16 million per acre, as pictured Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

At the peak of the bubble, development firm Triple Five plunked down $180 million for property on the north Strip with plans to build a resort with an observation wheel.

Today the land sits mostly empty, a sprawling parking lot in a struggling area, and Triple Five is trying to sell it — for half-price.

Workers on Wednesday installed a blue-and-white sign announcing the 5.4-acre property is up for sale at $16 million an acre. That’s roughly half the $33 million an acre that Triple Five paid in October 2007.

Despite the discount, the price is out of reach for many investors, and even if someone buys the land, securing construction loans is far more difficult than during the boom years, so it’s unclear what, if anything, would be built.

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The land near the Riviera that development company Triple Five is trying to sell has kiosks on it Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

But the sales effort comes amid hopes that the north Strip, blighted by mothballed resort projects and huge swaths of empty land, is poised for a rebound.

SLS Las Vegas — the former Sahara — opened Aug. 23 after a $415 million overhaul. Malaysia’s Genting Group, a casino powerhouse, plans to spend billions turning the abandoned Echelon project into an 87-acre Chinese-themed megaresort. Also, Australian billionaire James Packer and former Wynn Resorts executive Andrew Pascal want to build a resort on the empty, former New Frontier site, which they acquired last month through foreclosure.

Triple Five’s site, wedged between the Riviera resort and the Peppermill restaurant, is largely vacant except for some retail space along the Strip. But it could have a boutique hotel and casino with retail space and possibly timeshare units, a far smaller and cheaper project than Genting’s across the street, said real estate broker Michael Parks, of CBRE Group.

“There will be a high level of interest in that property,” said Parks, whose group talked with Triple Five about getting the listing. “It’s just hard to tell what (amount) people would be willing to pay.”

Triple Five, which owns the Mall of America in Minnesota and other colossal properties, spent at least $280 million gobbling up land near the Riviera last decade. The company drew up plans for Las Vegas Revolution, which was slated to have an observation wheel, a hotel, a casino and restaurants, but management scrapped the idea when the economy tanked, said James Grindstaff, vice president of planning and development.

The firm then planned to build a “grandiose” miniature golf course with waterfalls, a restaurant and a lake, Grindstaff said. That, too, was shelved. Ultimately, Triple Five sold much of its north Strip property at a loss, through a process that lets people buy debt-laden real estate while avoiding the foreclosure process, county records show.

The real estate market is now rebounding, Grindstaff said, noting that prices have climbed on the Strip and home values skyrocketed the past few years.

Nevertheless, the company is in no rush to sell.

“We’ll just sit there until somebody makes us an offer,” he said.

Triple Five, with main offices in Las Vegas and in Edmonton, Alberta, is led by the Ghermezian family of Canada. Their conglomerate has investments in oil, gas, banking and truck manufacturing, as well as nuclear energy engineering and biotechnology.

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A view inside an abandoned kiosk on the land near the Riviera that development company Triple Five is trying to sell for $16 million per acre Wednesday, Sept. 3, 2014.

In Las Vegas, the company developed Boca Park shopping center near Summerlin and owns 18 acres of mostly vacant land on the south Strip. It also laid out plans during the boom years to develop the $750 million, 60-acre Great Mall of Las Vegas in the northwest valley. The company did roadwork and landscaping but lost the site to foreclosure.

Triple Five bought the 5-acre parcel near the Riviera from investor Lorenzo Doumani, whose family had planned to build a luxury hotel and condo tower there.

The site previously was home to La Concha Motel, which opened in 1961 and was designed by famed Los Angeles architect Paul Revere Williams, and El Morocco hotel, which opened in 1964.

La Concha’s distinctive shell-shaped lobby was moved to the Neon Museum in 2005 and is now used as the attraction’s lobby.

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