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April 16, 2014

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Private user’ to bring 750 jobs to downtown Las Vegas

Major announcement expected in two weeks for project on City Hall site

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Oscar Goodman

The answers Mayor Oscar Goodman will give are the date of an announcement: Dec. 2, the number of jobs: 750, and the location: the current Las Vegas City Hall site.

But Goodman wouldn't tell reporters Wednesday afternoon what they wanted to know: The name of the mystery "private user" expected to announce in two weeks a major project that will bring a minimum of 750 non-construction jobs to the existing City Hall site at Las Vegas Boulevard and Stewart Avenue.

Goodman said he is bound by a confidentiality agreement not to divulge the "private user's" name or type of business.

However, Goodman has teased reporters in the the past that when the announcement is made it will be international and will inspire awe.

"I'm given to hyperbole. I'm the first one to admit that because I am a cheerleader and I am exuberant about the future of Las Vegas and the success of downtown Las Vegas in particular," Goodman said Wednesday. "So you'll have to make the ultimate judgment and say the mayor is a genius or a fool."

What is known about the proposal is that a sports arena won't be in the works for the site of the 11-story, 37-year-old City Hall office and parking garage, which is being replaced by a new seven-story city hall. The new city hall building, to be open in 2012, is between First and Main streets and Lewis and Clark avenues, two blocks south of the Golden Nugget hotel-casino.

The Las Vegas City Council took action today that frees up the existing City Hall site by moving the city's focus for a sports arena over to Symphony Park, the 61-acre former Union Pacific rail yard.

"We've been presented with a new market opportunity," Bill Arent, the city's business development director, told the council Wednesday. "In this economy, you always want to take advantage of new opportunities as they come your way."

Arent said "we received an unsolicited offer from a representative of a private user interested in the properties" at the City Hall location that had been under an exclusive negotiating agreement the city has with the Cordish Companies.

Cordish has worked with the city and given the city the right to have some "good faith discussions" with the private user and its representative, Arent said.

"Based on these discussions, we would like to consummate these discussions," he said.

To accommodate the "private user" the city and Cordish are willing to move the sports arena project and the entertainment district project to Symphony Park, he said.

Symphony Park is home to the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, which was completed in May and sits on the park’s southwest corner, and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which is under construction and is expected to be finished in spring 2012.

The council unanimously approved changing its exclusive negotiating contract with Cordish so that the developer has the rights for up to 30 months to explore building an arena and an entertainment district on several parcels of land on the north side of Symphony Park.

Cordish was to study the possibility of building a sports arena, an entertainment district and a casino/hotel on about 20 acres downtown that included the existing City Hall site.

Arent said the hotel/casino part of the original Cordish plan are not being moved over to Symphony Park.

However he said the five parcels where the arena and entertainment district project are moving are currently being planned for projects by other third parties.

For example, on the north side of Symphony Park, there is a plan to build a 52-story World Jewelry Center. However, the developers have asked the city for a time extension on that project because of the economy.

Goodman told the council that he has had discussions with Robert Zarnigan, whose development company is working on the proposed World Jewelry Center project. Goodman said Zarnigan was cooperative in helping the city change its focus over to Symphony Park.

"The Cordish agreement diminishes in no way the city of Las Vegas' interest in his project," Goodman said. "We're going to be working with him to see if we're able to negotiate another site at Symphony Park where the jewelry center could be located."

The new agreement with Cordish also releases up to $2.4 million to Cordish for planning costs associated with the arena and the live entertainment district.

Arent said Cordish was committing to giving the city its financing plans over the next 12 to 18 months.

The new deal worked out with Cordish also gives it the right to return to developing the property at the location at City Hall if the deal doesn't work out with the "private user," Arent said.

"The private user is looking to bring a minimum of 750 private jobs to downtown," Arent said. "And in this economy, that's incredibly important."

He said a development agreement with the "private user" will be brought to the city council at a future meeting.

Port Tellis, a representative of Cordish, said the company was happy to help accommodate the city with its efforts both on the city hall site and at Symphony Park.

"We think Symphony Park has good infrastructure. It has good bones. And it's going to be a wonderful site for an arena and a live district," Tellis said.

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