Former ‘economic cemetery’: North Strip showing more signs of life

By Eli Segall | Originally published in the Las Vegas Review-Journal | April 23, 2023

The north edge of the Strip was a bleak place a decade or so ago.

Las Vegas’ real estate meltdown left this stretch of the casino corridor with halted megaresort projects, sprawling land tracts where big developments never took shape, and little foot traffic. As a cigar shop owner there told me at the time, it was a “huge economic cemetery.”

The north Strip still isn’t overrun with tourists, and it still has big pieces of land. But the area has gained momentum — and now two developers are laying the groundwork for a potential new project there.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority on Tuesday approved selling a 10-acre lot for $125 million to local developer Brett Torino and New York’s Paul Kanavos. The site, at the southeast corner of Las Vegas and Elvis Presley boulevards, occupies part of the footprint where the Riviera stood.

In a phone interview this week, Torino said it was “premature” to discuss what he and Kanavos might build.

He asked, hypothetically, if the north Strip needs another hotel-casino, or if there’s something he and Kanavos could do to cater to business travelers.

‘Very appealing to us’

The pair have teamed up to build retail projects on the Strip before — albeit in a busier section — and Torino didn’t rule that out for their newest parcel. But he said they want to create something that’s a “true experience” and alluded to people being “outdoors-centric.”

“We think we have the ability to do something like that,” Torino told me.

The plot he and Kanavos are buying is just south of the 67-story Fontainebleau Las Vegas, a long-planned casino-resort that is under construction and scheduled to open in the fourth quarter.

The corner parcel is also near the $4.3 billion Resorts World Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Convention Center’s $1 billion West Hall. Both massive projects debuted in 2021.

Moreover, Major League Baseball’s Oakland Athletics have been looking at some sites in America’s casino capital for a potential new ballpark, including festival grounds at the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Sahara Avenue.

Torino pointed to this increased activity along the north Strip.

“It was very appealing to us,” he said.

‘Mother nature was deconstructing’

Torino, owner of Torino Companies, and Kanavos, chairman and CEO of Flag Luxury Group, partnered more than a decade ago to develop a three-story retail complex at the northeast corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue.

The project, called Harmon Corner, features tenants such as Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. and Sugar Factory.

More recently, they built a four-story retail project called 63 at the southwest corner of the same intersection, next to luxury mall The Shops at Crystals at the multi-tower CityCenter complex.

It is slated to feature such tenants as Ocean Prime, whose operators said they would invest nearly $20 million in the seafood and steakhouse restaurant set to open this spring.

A decade ago, Torino recalled, there wasn’t anything he and Kanavos would have wanted to build on the north Strip.

He pointed to the “carcass” of the then-stalled Fontainebleau and the mothballed Echelon project that became Resorts World.

“It looked more like Mother Nature was deconstructing,” he recalled.

The north Strip is still a long way from resembling the stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard where Torino and Kanavos built before, but it has made strides.

Torino pointed to “very significant events” in the area — and the timing, he believes, “is now.”

Contact Eli Segall at [email protected] or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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In honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, we are immensely proud of our longstanding partnership of over two decades with @nvccf. Together, we have diligently championed the cause of raising awareness about this illness and have been dedicated to advancing services provided to the children and their families. Over the years, our collaborative efforts have resulted in the development of educational services for children undergoing treatments and the establishment of a refuge through the summer camps at Torino Ranch, where cherished memories are created, offering a respite from the challenges faced by these young fighters. @kariofmanycolors @celenahaas1
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🎉 Congratulations to @nvccf Jeff, Stephanie, and the entire team! What a remarkable honor, and we couldn't be more proud to collaborate with you on Camp Cartwheel and the BTF educational services and programs throughout the year. Your dedication to the children and the Las Vegas Community is truly commendable. Thank you, NVCCF, for making a positive impact on so many lives! 🙌🏼 #givingback
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ICYMI: Proud to partner with @saveredrock and other local groups @centennial_subaru @republic_services and more for Lovell Canyon clean up with nearly 100 volunteers. We are committed to the continuous preservation and beauty of our nature lands.
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It takes a village to support children with critical illnesses, to wrap services around them, and ensure that they and their families feel deeply supported. Summer camp fun not only brings joy but also instills strength and courage within them, empowering them to face medical challenges throughout the year. Together, we form a close-knit family, united in our dedication to their well-being. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️ @nvccf @8newsnow @8newsnowkirsten @kirsten.joyce
Last week, Brett Torino Foundation and @nvccf Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation held the 27th annual Camp Cartwheel Summer Camp at Torino Ranch for critically ill children diagnosed with cancer, or other life-threatening illnesses. Over the decades many thousands of children have experienced the ranch since 1999, the foundation is committed to those we serve.
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Be kind to one another, the environment, and all living creatures. 🙏