Friday, June 13, 2014

Las Vegas, Back From the Bust, Revives Dead Projects

By Brian Louis,

Las Vegas Revived with Summerlin the CommunityFor almost five years, the desert plot at the western edge of the Las Vegas valley was home to hulking steel skeletons -- ghostly ruins of a construction project halted by the recession.

Now the 106-acre (43-hectare) site bustles with hundreds of workers building the first phase of Downtown Summerlin, an office, entertainment and retail complex that’s scheduled to open in October. Howard Hughes Corp. (HHC) revived the development last year after the previous owner, General Growth Properties Inc., shut it down in 2008.

The commercial real estate market in Las Vegas, littered with vacant buildings and abandoned construction sites by overreaching developers during the U.S. property crash, is coming back to life as the local economy improves and tourists return to the nation’s gambling capital. Blackstone Group LP’s deal to buy the Cosmopolitan resort and Genting Bhd. (GENT)’s proposed resurrection of an abandoned project on Las Vegas Boulevard are further signs of investor confidence in the nascent recovery.

Las Vegas “kind of went through this frozen period,” said John Matt Stater, research manager for brokerage Colliers International in the city. “Over the last year we really got the blood pumping now, and things are moving fast.”

Summerlin Project

About a 20-minute drive from the Strip is the site of Hughes Corp.’s Downtown Summerlin, which eventually will encompass 400 acres. It’s part of the broader Summerlin community, which has been under development for more than 20 years and has about 100,000 residents. Hughes Corp. inherited the development in its 2010 spinoff from Chicago-based General Growth, the second-biggest U.S. mall owner.

Downtown Summerlin, where an eight-story office building is under construction and scheduled to open this year, is “one of the most strategically located real estate developments in the country,” Orrock said. “We expect to draw from the entire region, not just the Summerlin community.”

Summerlin, 8 miles (13 kilometers) west of downtown Las Vegas, has nine golf courses and is adjacent to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, according to Hughes Corp. The land was once owned by billionaire Howard Hughes, who bought the property in the 1950s and named it after his grandmother, Jean Amelia Summerlin. The first homeowner moved in in 1991, Orrock said.

“We’ve gone 23 years without a major retail component to the project,” he said. Downtown Summerlin “will be one of the more successful projects in the country.”

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