With a foundation in philanthropy, dynamic Strip developer makes a name for himself
Shortly after dawn on a recent August morning, Brett Torino examined a 2-acre piece of land along the Strip that he and a business partner had purchased earlier this year.
Some construction workers – part of a group of nearly three dozen on the property – gathered as they prepared to start their day.
A flatbed truck carrying a load of rebar slowly entered the site from Harmon Avenue, southwest of its intersection with Las Vegas Boulevard near the Cosmopolitan.
Workers began on the site of the largest CityCenter development in June.
When completed – likely in the second or third quarter of 2022 – Turin’s development, dubbed Project63, will feature four stories of retail, dining and entertainment offerings.
“I’ve had my eye on this property for a long time,” said Torino, a slim 6ft 2in man with a long ponytail and gentle demeanor. “The barriers to doing business on the Strip are great because people want to do business here. “
In April, MGM Resorts International announced it had reached an agreement with Torino, 63, and its partners with New York-based Flag Luxury, to sell the property, which once housed the struggling Harmon Hotel project, for $ 80 million. . The deal was closed in the spring.
Familiar with the development of the Strip, Torino is also behind the eye-catching Harmon Corner development, just across from Project63, and other construction along Las Vegas Boulevard.
Much of his success in the business world, said Torino, is due to his talent for building and nurturing relationships. He said he owned $ 2 billion in properties across the country, from Florida to southern California.
He has long-standing relationships and friendships with many of Las Vegas’ major business players today, including MGM CEO Bill Hornbuckle, whom Torino calls Billy.
Torino met Hornbuckle shortly after moving to Las Vegas from his native Southern California in 1978. Both were attending UNLV at the time.
It was Hornbuckle that Torino called in early 2020 to make initial contact about a potential deal for the pitch.
Torino said he understands the risk of a big deal of money during a pandemic, but said he always believed in the opportunities presented in Las Vegas.
“After the pandemic, people said the hotel market would not recover for four years, but it recovered overnight,” Torino said. “We know how to make the numbers work, and I knew the Project63 site was a site to get if it was possible. I don’t know why anyone would bet against Las Vegas.
Part of the deal with MGM and its partner, Infinity World Development Corp., was that Turin would not build skyscrapers.
MGM, Torino said, liked the four-story development to have limited effect on Strip views from its CityCenter hotels to the north.
“Brett has made a name for himself as a developer of quality projects in Las Vegas, including the new project at CityCenter, which we’re really excited about,” Hornbuckle said in an emailed statement.
Torino said his people were still negotiating with potential tenants for Project63, but that interest had been high.
He said many tenants have expressed interest in what would likely be great “experiential retail” showcases, with some offering up to 20,000 or 30,000 square feet of space.
According to Clark County use permit files, Project63 tenants could offer anything from an art gallery or recording studio to offices and a movie theater. There will also be restaurants and possibly a grocery store.
“Our tenants want to open before Christmas 2022,” Torino said. “Most of the retail on the Strip is on the east side of Las Vegas Boulevard. There are only about 30% on the west side. Where Project63 is, I think that’s a very under-marketed area.
Confident businessman and local philanthropist, Torino said he faced the same challenges as anyone else.
He said he left San Pedro, California after high school because he needed to get away from the questionable crowds he was running with in his hometown near the Port of Los Angeles.
When he arrived in Las Vegas, he knew he wanted to get involved in the construction industry, which he did almost immediately while working on various renovation projects.
Soon he invested in real estate here, buying dilapidated houses which he then sold for a profit. He would later begin building small apartment and condo complexes throughout the Southwest.
“I had a boyfriend who moved to Las Vegas who was small and quiet in the 1970s,” Torino said. “I wanted to get out of the big city, but I knew I could easily go home to visit from Las Vegas. I remember my dad telling me that moving to Las Vegas would be the biggest career mistake I could make.
Instead, Torino was able to make a name for themselves here.
Many in the Las Vegas Valley know him because of his work through his Brett Torino Foundation, which is probably best known for his Torino Ranch at the foot of Mount Charleston.
The ranch began hosting various summer camp programs in the 1990s and has served as a sanctuary for children with chronic illnesses and developmental disabilities ever since.
The ranch was born out of Torino’s belief in serving others, a value he said he had held throughout his life.
“A lot of the relationships that I have are due to the foundation,” Torino said. “A lot of kids have spent time at the ranch over the years and I’m very proud of it. I always wanted to give. When I moved here I just started volunteering my time for different things – it was a great way to meet people while giving back to your community.
Pauline van Betten, a longtime local real estate agent who has known Turin from her years at UNLV, called her the most disciplined person she knows.
A former triathlete, Torino adheres to a strict diet. Not the time-wasting type, he usually gets up around 2 a.m. to begin his daily stretching and meditation routine.
“Brett is a very artistic person,” said van Betten. “He has really big ideas and is such a dynamic person. I have noticed that he becomes very connected to people and they end up staying in his life. Anyone who has been to their ranch knows how special it is. It’s really unbelievable.
It was van Betten who helped persuade his friend – usually the attention-avoider – to develop his online profile.
“He has such a great story,” she said. “I told him he needed to get better known or someone else will tell your story.”
Torino has also volunteered over the years for other local causes, including the Boys & Girls Clubs of Southern Nevada organization.
In 2002, he served as chairman of the club’s board of directors, the same position as the president and CEO of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Steve Hill, in 2004, 2005 and 2007.
“I have a lot of respect for Brett in a lot of ways,” Hill said. “He’s been a very successful developer in a number of different areas over the years, but he’s also committed to helping underprivileged children in our community.”
In Las Vegas, Torino has lived in the same house at a Spanish Trail Country Club resort for over 30 years.
He also enjoys spending time in a house in Santa Fe, New Mexico, but he said his heart remained in Las Vegas.
“Las Vegas has a wonderful future,” Torino said. “He has always evolved, and he will continue to evolve. I think we’ll always be a city of games, but it’s also an experiential city. Look at what happened with our sports teams, with the Raiders coming here. What a brilliant gesture from the Raiders. And why wouldn’t a baseball team come to Las Vegas? Here we are, you can’t compete with Las Vegas.
Regarding his development interests on the tape, Torino has said he will have more announcements to come, although he will remain silent on these potential deals at this time.
“I didn’t end up on the Strip,” Torino said. “Doing business on the Strip is one of the ultimate games, I think. There is a risk, but I have never been afraid of the risk. As you get older you realize that despite all the reasons to be upset and angry, we live in the greatest country in the world. We are lucky and I know I was very lucky.