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Builder panel: Smarter growth needed in Southern Nevada's future

You know a boom era was over the top when even developers say things got a little too good.

Sure, real estate pros appreciate growth, but they also know that flush times come and go.

That may be why a panel of five of Southern Nevada’s best-known development experts called for a new attitude toward growth at the Southern Nevada Home Builders Association’s 60th anniversary dinner at The Orleans on Nov. 14.

“I’m not sure our peaks were that healthy. Slow and steady wins the race,” said panel moderator Mark Fine, who helped develop big master plans including Green Valley and Summerlin. “We need to be making good social decisions along with good economic ones.”

The cautionary note came with a bit of reminiscing over better times. From the late 1980s through 2005, local building never stopped and few projects failed, as the Las Vegas Valley’s population surged from about 600,000 to 2 million. Former Pardee Homes executive Ray Landry recalled his perfect 1970s view of the Strip from Rainbow Boulevard and Flamingo Road, where the company was building its Spring Valley master plan. Pardee would go on to build about 25,000 homes during Landry’s 35 years with the company.

And panelists Tony Marnell II of architecture and contracting firm Marnell Corrao Associates and Tito Tiberti of J.A. Tiberti Construction Co. regaled the audience with stories of building, designing or operating hotel-casinos ranging from The Mirage to the Suncoast.

“But that movie’s over,” Marnell said. “It’s over, so what does that mean?”

For starters, it means dealing not just with slower population growth, but with consistently tight water supplies and even tighter land stores. It’s hard to find big parcels the right size for subdivision development, said panelist Larry Canarelli, founder of American West Homes, which has built 16,000 local homes since the late 1980s. The city might have five to 10 years of land left at today’s absorption rates, Canarelli said. Making matters worse, municipalities are pushing builders back onto larger lots, so it’s harder to conserve land with denser development, he said.

Still, Canarelli said the best hope for sustainable community development is New Urbanism, which focuses on higher-density housing, pedestrian-friendly master plans and building job centers close to residential neighborhoods.

The community should also work to restore the can-do attitude that took a hit in the recession, panelists agreed.

“The city’s entrepreneurial spirit is what made it grow. There was a camaraderie and an enthusiasm. People came here to take risks,” Landry said. “We still have an opportunity to really experiment with our communities. Builders can take chances. People are always looking for value, and they’ve always come to Las Vegas for that.”

■ The builders’ association’s anniversary gala was its first formal dinner since the recession began in 2007. But the trade group isn’t done bringing back events it stopped before the downturn.

It’s reviving its annual awards in 2014. The group has scheduled its Silver Nugget Awards — an updated version of its former Homer Awards — for March 29 at the Renaissance Las Vegas. The building industry has changed a lot since the last Homer ceremony about a decade ago, and the new incarnation will reflect those differences.

Where the Homers honored members for best community, floor plan and interior, the Silver Nuggets will add categories such as Green Builder of the Year, Best Website and Best Online Ad Campaign. For the first time, there’s also a human element, said Claire DeJesus, a Review-Journal sales executive and association board member who’s helping coordinate the awards. Honors will go to Sales Rookie of the Year, Sales Team of the Year and Construction Superintendent of the Year.

The awards are open to association members only. You can nominate candidates after Dec. 1 at

The Review-Journal is hosting the awards.

■ A state trade group executive recently earned a national honor.

Rob Wigton, CEO of the Nevada Association of Realtors, earned the Realtor Certified Executive designation for his “exceptional efforts” as an association exec, the group announced Nov. 14. To get certified, board chiefs have to document their association management and academic bona fides. They also have to pass an exam on association operations and management practices, including law, governance, financial management and member services.

Wigton will get his award plaque from association President Patty Kelley during the group’s December board meeting in Las Vegas.

■ Sun Commercial Real Estate recently completed a big retail deal.

Company brokers represented both sides in the $12.95 million purchase of Civic Center Plaza, a 192,075-square-foot complex at Civic Center Drive and Lake Mead Boulevard. Cathy Jones, Paul Miachika, Jessica Beall and Roy Fritz represented buyer Carmar LLC. Edward Bassford represented the seller, Dahlas Antoku and Mieko Antoku Revocable Living Trust.

■ Brokers with Colliers International reported two new lease agreements.

Spencer Pinter, Dan Doherty, SIOR, and Chris Lane represented landlord KTR LV IV LLC in a 36-month lease of 5,190 square feet at 6280 S. Pecos Road, inside the Arrowhead Commerce Center, to Ferguson Enterprises. The deal’s value was $149,472.

And Brian Riffel represented Oregon Pacific Building Products in its 38-month lease of 10,795 square feet at 2875 N. Lamb Blvd. in the Cheyenne District Center. The transaction was worth $128,244.

Contact reporter Jennifer Robison at Follow @J_Robison1 on Twitter.