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Feasibility study underway

By Haidee V. Eugenio SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, June 22, 2011) – In the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI), Island Ventures LLC is planning to invest almost US$60 million to build a "seven-story, five-star" hotel resort on public land in San Roque, near the former La Fiesta Mall, which it also wants to revitalize.

This is the first time that Island Ventures revealed the amount and details of its planned investment on a public land previously leased and later abandoned by Flame Sako.

The Department of Public Lands has already issued Island Ventures a one-year temporary authorization to enter the premises and begin preliminary work, as the two parties continue to negotiate a 25-year lease agreement that will eventually need the Legislature's approval.

Herman P. Sablan, representative of Island Ventures in the CNMI, said they are now soliciting bids for the topographic survey.

"We are mapping out the place, we are doing a feasibility study," Sablan said in an interview. "Our project is close to US$60 million, and it will be done in phases."

The hotel project is on a 5.1-hectare public land in the Marpi/San Roque area, north of the former The Palms Resort.

Sablan said the first phase includes the construction of some 100 units of townhouse villas, while the second phase will include the construction of a seven-story, five-star hotel.

"The third phase will be a water park and other amenities," he added.

Islands Ventures LLC is a new business incorporated in the CNMI whose principals also own a California-based company with financial investments in Hong Kong.

Sablan said Island Ventures is hoping that its plan to revitalize La Fiesta Mall will be chosen by the CNMI government.

Lt. Gov. Eloy S. Inos earlier said there were three bidders, including Island Ventures and the United Micronesia Development Association Inc. Inos said the third one was Pacific Amusement in partnership with a Nova Scotia, Canada-based firm.

But Pacific Amusement Inc. general manager James Gebhard, when asked yesterday, said the lieutenant governor may have mixed up their company with that of another business.

It turned out that the third bidder in the La Fiesta project is Pacific Entertainment Technology.

Manny Borja, first vice president of Pacific Entertainment Technology, confirmed yesterday that they responded to the La Fiesta RFP. He said they partnered with the Canada-based firm Techlink.

Borja said the officers of Pacific Entertainment Technology are former Senate president Juan Demapan as president, Tony Rasiang as second vice president, and Jack Manglona as treasurer/secretary.

He said they are optimistic their proposal will outperform the other two bids.

The other bidder, UMDA, owns the now-closed 313-room The Palms Resort across La Fiesta.

Inos said a team has been formed to review the three proposals.

Initial estimates are that La Fiesta Mall renovations will cost at least US$5 million.

Besides retail stores and other tourism-related activities, the La Fiesta Mall revitalization project requires the construction of a gaming area for at least 200 video lottery terminals.

The government has been paying some US$200,000 annually for the lease of the La Fiesta property, yet it has not earned a single cent from it since 2004. Rather than let the facility deteriorate further, the government wants to revitalize it; this was why the government sought proposals from interested parties.

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