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Barrick eyes expansion
behind Plaza

Aug 24, 2004 6:23 AM

The Barrick Corporation is in negotiations with the city to swap some parcels of land it owns just east of city hall for some of the 61 acres the city owns behind the Plaza Hotel, according to Steve Crystal, the president and general counsel for Barrick Gaming Corporation.

Crystal, who said he expects the monorail to eventually be extended all the way to the south end of the Downtown Transportation Center, said negotiations should be concluded before Thanksgiving and when they are over, Barrick will own about five to eight acres behind the Plaza for hotel expansion.

Although Crystal would not speculate how Barrick would use the old Union Pacific property, the company’s chief gaming officer, Phil Flaherty, told a conference sponsored by CB Richard Ellis that Barrick "could easily add 2,000 rooms to the Plaza" on the land.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said no deal for the old Union Pacific property will be finalized until a master developer has been chosen. Development companies have until Sept. 7 to get their proposals in and then the city will select three finalists.

The proposed Barrick swap could be affected by the developer chosen by the city. The city will review the work the three finalists have done on other projects and pick the winner of the competition within 75 days. Crystal said he is familiar with the work of one of the development companies seeking the city contract, The Related Companies based in New York.

The mayor added that the city has an excellent relationship with the Barrick Company. However, he said that while Barrick may have made an offer it feels the city can’t refuse, the city won’t sign any agreements until the developer is "in the mix," according to Goodman.

Nevertheless, Barrick officials believe they have a viable use for the former railroad property. Crystal said that in his experience "towns grow out and out until the only thing that is left is the infill." He added that the shortage of real estate on the fringe of Las Vegas means investors are looking at the city’s inner core for new projects.

When Barrick bought four of Jackie Gaughan’s hotel-casinos, the deal included about 25 acres of property, making Barrick downtown’s biggest non-governmental landowner.

With its land holdings near Fremont Street, Barrick gets "a couple of a calls a week, unsolicited, from developers from as far away as Miami, Portland and Denver," Crystal said.

Industry sources said using the old railroad property for gaming purposes would be a plus for downtown. Over the past few years, the city has explored developing anything but casinos — a university medical plaza, film studios, a performing arts center, a new baseball stadium and a smattering of offices and shops.

There were even discussions to build a downtown sports arena that would host Harlem Globetrotter games, and feature a permanent Harlem Globetrotter museum. None of those deals panned out.