To Sell a Condo

How do you move high-rise units in this market? By being different

Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis made us laugh. But today, the building at the intersection of the streets named after them is another of the Valley’s many high-rise real estate casualties.

Its owner, however, is banking on more smiles in the future.

Panorama Tower North is being re-branded as The Martin, taking advantage of its location on a roadway named after the famous actor, comedian and singer. The marketing shift comes after a roughly six-year development run of a project that spanned the extremes of economic cycles. And it reflects an attempt to move condos in a very difficult market.

Unlike the developers of the first two Panorama towers, finished in 2006 and 2007, Laurence Hallier and Andrew Sasson couldn’t outrun the economy with Tower Three in 2008. That leaves its 372 condos about one-fifth sold today, with the rest of the units owned by lender I-Star Financial of Brea, Calif.

“These types of developments generally are struggling in the current economy,” says Brian Gordon, a principal with the Southern Nevada research firm Applied Analysis. “The timeline to construct them spans years, and during that time market conditions turned. Some were able to develop, sell out and move on before the crisis hit. … Tower Three came later in the cycle and it took the hit.”

The Martin’s re-brand gives the third tower a unique identity in this market, according to Alan Mark, president of San Francisco-based The Mark Company, which has taken on the effort.

“This gives us an opportunity to further highlight how to differentiate the building. We had a feeling of classic Las Vegas, and we just liked the name on the street,” Mark says.

The Martin is a departure from its siblings next door. Its theme—“revel or retreat”—speaks to the peaceful, sophisticated vibe in the building that is only a five-minute walk from CityCenter.

There’s no shortage of blogs and YouTube fodder out there concerning Panorama’s first two towers being havens for adult entertainers and poker players. In several YouTube postings, poker players have shown off their digs and boasted about enjoying the party lifestyle that comes with the mix of residents. While it plays to the free-spiritedness in Las Vegas, Martin leasing agents and marketing officials give the impression that they hope what happens next door will stay next door.

Questioned about the re-brand helping to differentiate Tower Three from the other two, Mark spins the conversation toward the tower’s amenities. And why not? The units have Kashmir white granite counters and flooring, mahogany kitchen cabinets, marble showers and bathroom flooring, floor-to-ceiling windows and other touches. The Mark Company must deal with marketing to an eclectic mix of baby boomers, poker players, first-time homebuyers and international second-home purchasers without alienating any particular group.

June Stark, a longtime Valley real estate agent and head of the Stark Team at Elite Realty, says The Martin is very different from the first two Panorama Towers. Stark has sold units at all three towers. One of the more noticeable qualities of the third tower is heavier glass, she adds.

“It was always intended to be more of a flagship tower. … [Because of the heavier glass], it’s a much quieter building,” she says.

While no one is willing to claim an upswing in any real estate segment these days, high-rise sales seem to be showing promise. Salestraq, a local real estate sale data tracking firm, reports 215 high-rise unit sales in 2009, and 626 in 2010, 432 of which were in CityCenter. Average per-square-foot pricing at CityCenter hit its lowest point late last year at $653. But there is much lower pricing out there at projects such as Allure and Sky Las Vegas, with price points in the $200 per square foot range, says Marc Ehrlich, former marketing manager at Panorama.

The Martin’s smallest unit of 1,111 square feet is going for $234,300, or about $210 per square foot. Non-penthouse units max out at $1 million; penthouse suites top out at $6.5 million. But Ehrlich, who now runs his own brokerage and real estate consulting firm,, has his eye on the $200-per-square-foot figure, as units priced in that range move quickly to cash buyers. He says Las Vegas’ pricing for high-rise luxury condos is extremely low compared to other markets around the nation.

“We’re one of the top 30 metro areas in the country, and you don’t see other cities as low as Las Vegas. As much trouble as there’s been in Miami, they’re still not at $200 a foot,” Ehrlich says.

But what may help The Martin the most is the availability of a financing partner. Re-sales at Panorama’s first two towers are cash-only deals these days, as virtually any type of condo financing in Las Vegas is considered too high-risk for lenders. But The Martin has lined up a lender for second-home or primary owners, not investors.

The Mark Company also brings a track record of moving units in high-rises on the West Coast. The group has worked on projects such as Los Angeles’ Evo, the residential component of entertainment campus L.A. Live; and San Francisco’s St. Regis Residences; and is also marketing One Hawthorne also in San Francisco.

“You always see the opportunity where you highlight what a building really offers. As a market changes, buildings can be re-positioned, looked at differently through people’s eyes,” Mark says.

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