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By Jude O. Marfil

SAIPAN, CNMI (Marianas Variety, May 19) – California-based real estate developer Bridgecreek Development International is considering the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands for a shopping mall, a residential facility and a Las Vegas-inspired gambling facility.

John G. Carlson, Bridgecreek’s president and chief executive officer, said he has met with a couple of realtors and has visited to the possible site of these establishments.

"We’re are thinking of putting up a silver retirement facility for Japanese nationals who come here for a vacation," he said. "We’re also thinking of condominiums where there are club house, tennis courts, and swimming pool."

To attract more Chinese tourists, Carlson said he is considering putting up a gambling facility on Tinian, which is considered to be CNMI’s gaming district.

"We have a major project in Guangzhou in China. We have a 150-acre and $300 million project there. We know the Chinese market very well and we know that the Chinese like gambling. It might be natural to do something on Tinian," he said.

Having worked with billionaire Howard Hughes, who developed casinos in Las Vegas, Carlson said he believes that having another casino on Tinian will benefit the island.

"I have been involved in (the casino) industry. You certainly need more than one hotel. If you want to gamble, it’s nice to go to different hotels and see different shows, restaurants and different gambling atmosphere. Two or three hotels would help to bring more (tourists)," Carlson said.

He said creating a shopping mall designed to attract more medium-sized enterprises and moderately priced brands is also among his plans.

"You need more of a middle class. I don’t know whether there is enough market to sustain. We do a lot of shopping malls. That would be a natural here...if the market would demand that," Carlson said.

Asked how much cash Bridgecreek is willing to invest in the CNMI, Carlson replied, "It will depend on the market. I hope to come back here in June to look at different properties both for retail and residential."

Carlson is among 14 business executives from the U.S. who are visiting U.S.-affiliated Pacific islands to look for investment opportunities and partnerships with local entrepreneurs.

From Saipan, Carlson and the rest of the trade mission delegates led by Interior Deputy Secretary-designate P. Lynn Scarlett will proceed to Palau.

"Everyone has been cordial, helpful. I have learned a great deal. I think it’s a wonderful place to live," said Carlson, who steered the development of properties with an estimated value of more than $420 million.

Based in Huntington Beach in California, Bridgecreek has businesses in Southern California, the Midwestern United States, China and Vietnam. It was responsible for developing the famous "Little Saigon" shopping center in Orange County, California, which serves as the commercial center for the largest Vietnamese community outside Vietnam.

May 19, 2005

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