Las Vegas’ World Jewelry Center Gets Key Approvals

The planned World Jewelry Center in Las Vegas has moved a substantial step forward with the completion of all local approvals. The Las Vegas City Council has approved the Disposition and Development Agreement, Owner Participation Agreement and related documents, allowing the Jewelry Center to proceed as part of the master-planned 61-acre Union Park redevelopment in Downtown Las Vegas, between The Strip and I-15. The multifaceted project will include 800,000 square feet of Class A office condo space, gem-grading labs, educational facilities, and meeting and exhibition space. In addition, the tower’s top seven floors will feature 20 to 25 luxury residential condominiums. Bill Boyajian, the Jewelry Center project manager and a onetime Gemological Institute of America president, previously told CPN that the residential condos will be offered to the office buyers first. For the most part, the property–which will be located within a Free Trade Zone–will be open only to the trade: jewelry wholesalers, manufacturers, dealers and trade associations. However, an adjacent three-story building with 90,000 square feet of retail space, as well as a museum and café, will be open to the public. The developer is Beverly Hills, Calif.–based Probity International Corp., whose other developments and investments include The Peninsula Beverly Hills hotel; 660 Madison Avenue, 250,000 square feet of Class A office space in Manhattan above Barney’s Department Store; The Wilshire in Los Angeles; and Rodeo Drive Center in Beverly Hills. According to a Probity spokesperson, Federal Aviation Administration approval regarding the 50-some-story Jewelry Center tower is the only remaining regulatory hurdle. The next step in construction, the spokesperson said, is finalizing the sale of the 5.4-acre parcel, currently owned by the city, which will likely happen late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. Groundbreaking is anticipated in 2009, with project completion in 2011.The $6 billion Union Park project, which is being developed by Las Vegas–based Newland Communities and the City of Las Vegas, is a former brownfield site, part of what had been a 230-acre Union Pacific Railroad rail yard until it was abandoned in the ’80s. Rita Brandin, Newland’s senior vice president & development director, told CPN that phase one of the new infrastructure, including electric, water/sewer and streets, will begin in the southern half of the Union Park site in March. This is being funded in part by $40 million from the city.The 67,000-square-foot Lou Ruvo Brain Institute is already underway in Union Park, and Brandin said that ground should be broken on the 2,000-seat Smith Center for the Performing Arts in September or October. Union Park will eventually include 1.9 million square feet of Class A office; 363,000 square feet of ground-level retail; 3,100 residential units built over 10 years, in configurations from townhomes to high-rises; a hotel-casino and two business hotels, in one of which celebrity chef Charlie Palmer will have an interest.