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Falconi stakes Vegas resort

Washington County entrepreneur developing $600M condo

By Tim Schooley
Pittsburgh Business Times
Updated: 7:00 p.m. ET Jan. 8, 2006

In terms of business challenges, the distance between hawking a few hundred $15,000 Honda Civics each year to selling more than 1,000 luxury condominiums for well more than $300,000 each might appear vast.

But for Washington County entrepreneur Angelo Falconi, that would-be chasm is boxed into the same 12 acres of Nevada desert located only a mile-and-a-half from the Las Vegas Strip.

Falconi Group, a consortium of businesses led by Falconi that includes shopping malls, car dealerships and a stake in the Pittsburgh Penguins, is leading a nearly $600 million development of a major new condo resort.

Called the Pinnacle, the resort features 1,100 condo units divided between two 36-story towers, 65,000 square feet of retail, restaurant and office space, and numerous amenities.

The project is slated for a site Falconi owns on heavily traveled Tropicana Boulevard, where he operated a Honda dealership until five years ago.

Expected to take two years to complete, the Pinnacle will feature a pool and a jogging track along with a health club and wireless room controls.

Perhaps the most coveted units at the Pinnacle will be found in the window-flanked sky bridges spanning the two towers where residents will enjoy wall-sized windows on each side.

Falconi is pursuing the project through a partnership called the Falcon Group, which includes Praxis Resources LLC, a Bridgeville development firm, and Elysium Enterprises, a Las Vegas development firm.

Along with revenue from the condo unit sales, the Falcon Group has lined up the New York firm of Marshall & Stevens to help finance the project.

For Falconi, now in his 80s, the venture is among the largest in a career that spans 40 years. And that's saying something for a businessman whose holdings employ nearly 900 people and whose real estate portfolio totals nearly 1.5 million square feet of commercial and residential space, including car dealerships throughout the country and substantial holdings in Florida.

"Angelo is a true entrepreneur willing to take chances to be on the cutting edge of different projects," said Ed Morascyzk, Falconi's nephew, as well as chief counsel for the Falconi and Falcon groups. "When he feels that there is a project that has merit, size does not intimidate him."

And in a Las Vegas real estate market full of its share of multimillion-dollar mirages, the development partners are confident their project is ready for construction.

Randy Mineo and Jerry Sukenik, both principals of Praxis, as well Michael Towers, Pinnacle project director, say the main development stage of the project is nearly completed.

"Even though it's a very expensive project, there's sound reasoning behind it," said Mineo. "To (Falconi's) credit, he understood it, jumped on it, and moved aggressively to get it approved."

Having already achieved all the necessary zoning and other approvals for the project, the Falcon Group is entering the Pinnacle's presale period. Falcon hopes to sell 50 percent of the development's units by summer, at which point they hope to begin to establish financing and start construction.

Towers said the Pinnacle already has commitments for between 30 percent and 40 percent of the condo units at the development, part of a growing trend known as condo resorts, in which condo owners can offer their units for rent either through a program run by the property's management or on their own.

The Falcon Group has hired Interstate Hotels, formerly a Pittsburgh-area firm now based in Maryland, to manage the property.

Towers emphasized the Falcon Group currently has New York-based Turner Construction Co., a national contractor, conducting preconstruction services on the site in a market in which contractors are in high demand.

"In a perfect world, we'll break ground this summer," he said.

The project is banking on Las Vegas being the perfect market. Towers noted that last year nearly 8,000 people moved to Las Vegas each month, a growth level he doubted any other city in the country could match. He quoted a local study that suggested that in the midst of a major development boom going on in Las Vegas that there was still a shortage of more than 20,000 residential units.

It's a level of growth that Joseph Kubiec, the managing director of the Las Vegas office of Grubb & Ellis, experienced first hand when he moved there from Cleveland eight years ago.

In that time, the population of Clark County, in which Las Vegas is located, doubled to 1.8 million.

"You don't just see the velocity in the economy that you do here," he said.

That said, Kubiec wonders if and when the market for condo towers will become glutted in Las Vegas, which has been undergoing a much discussed "Manhattanization" of new residential skyscrapers.

More than 80 condo projects are currently in the planning stages for Las Vegas, including a a 50-story project by Donald Trump and developments to complement the established MGM and Palms casinos, among others.

But he noted that the first two condo tower projects in Las Vegas, one of which was developed by Pittsburgh native Don Soffer's Aventura, Fla.-based Turnberry

Associates, the other by a developer named Irwin Molasky, have done well.

"They both have been very successful," Kubiec said. "Many thought that both of them were crazy."



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