Newport on the Levee plans expansion; seeks to add hotel, apartments, digital entertainment venue

Rendering of potential project shown at ICSC show

LAS VEGAS - For the first time since its 2001 opening, Newport on the Levee is cooking up expansion plans.

The urban retail entertainment center, which draws an estimated 3.5 million patrons a year to its restaurants and movie theaters behind the Newport flood wall, talked to retail prospects this week about a three-acre apartment and hotel expansion. It is also pursuing a "digital entertainment" attraction at the former IMAX theater site near the Newport Aquarium, General Manager Harold Dull said in Las Vegas Tuesday.

Newport on the Levee displayed a rendering of the potential three-acre project in its booth at the International Council of Shopping Center's annual Global Retail Real Estate Construction convention, or RECon.

"Everything has to pencil out," Dull said. "(But) the developer we're talking to really likes the site."

Dull estimated the chance of building the project at "better than 50 percent."

Newport on the Levee is a 340,000-square-foot restaurant and theater complex that was built by Liberty Center developer Steiner + Associates. It is owned by the Price Group of Lajolla, Calif.  Dull says the property is 80 percent occupied.

The $210 million project opened to great fanfare a decade ago, but fell prey to the weak economy and the bankruptcy of one of its anchors, an IMAX theater that closed in 2003.

At the Levee's ICSC booth Tuesday, Dull said the Newport project is performing well, with restaurant tenants seeing an increase in revenue in 2012. He wouldn't give details.

Dull said the success of The Banks riverfront development in Cincinnati prompted the Levee's owners to reconsider whether an overflow parking lot is the best use of real estate for the land south of the Newport flood wall and west of Third Street.

"They kind of set the bar for upscale apartments along the river," Dull said. "That prompted us to say, ‘Is a parking lot the best use of our land?' Probably not."

The expansion project could include up to 220 apartment units on the block north of Hofbrauhaus Newport. It is a surface lot that holds 323 cars. The project could also include a limited-service hotel of up to 120 rooms and a parking garage that would hold up to 470 spaces. First floor retail of up to 15,000 square feet would be part of the project, as well as "skybridge" that connects the existing Levee property with new buildings to the east.

Dull declined to name the developer that Newport on the Levee is talking to, saying a contract has yet to be signed. He expects the deal to involve Price Group's sale of land to the developer, which would have to arrange financing, pay for structured parking and infrastructure improvements and recruit a hotel and retail tenants.

Dull also declined to identify the company interested in reviving the IMAX theater property, saying the deal is subject to a confidentiality agreement. But he said the project could make national news if it comes together as envisioned. The potential theater developer has until October to pull a project together, under an agreement signed with Newport on the Levee about six months ago.

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Proposed expansion rendering(Click for larger image)


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