Ambitious project in Summerlin is building ‘a downtown from scratch’

By now you probably know that the formal opening date for Downtown Summerlin is Oct. 9. And you probably know that the 106-acre site along the 215 Beltway will contain an elegant representation of more than 125 retail stores, restaurants, a movie theater, a nine-story commercial tower and a lifestyle ambience designed especially for the 21st century.

But what you may not know is that this is just phase one of Downtown Summerlin and that what is being hailed as the heart and soul of the Summerlin community will connect with three existing facilities along West Charleston Boulevard to form only half of a downtown project that eventually will total 400 acres.

The three existing facilities include Red Rock Resort, whose ownership recently launched a $35 million expansion to create easy access to and from all of Downtown Summerlin for guests of the casino-hotel. The other two facilities are the City National Bank Pavilion Building and the Life Time Fitness Building.

But what you have already been seeing is only for starters. There’s more to come, better known as the second major phase of Downtown Summerlin, on a 200-acre parcel of undeveloped property that lies contiguous, south and east of phase one.

In reality, The Howard Hughes Corp., the master plan developer of Summerlin, has already said that construction in phase two of Downtown Summerlin has been in the works for a few months.

“We announced plans back in April for the first residential development within phase two of Downtown Summerlin,” said Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for Hughes.

Warden explained that the development of luxury homes, with lavish amenities, has begun as a joint venture of Hughes and The Calida Group. It will be situated on 4.5 acres just beyond the retail shops in phase one and will consist of 124 units in the form of a gated apartment complex.

“What you’re going to see in phase two is an urbanized concept, with a great many homes — high-rise homes, mid-rise homes and a variety of other apartment residences, but no free-standing single homes,” Warden emphasized.

“Like any downtown area, we will also have pedestrian-friendly streets and small-town shopping,” he continued. “By that I mean grocery stores, cleaners, bakeries, butcher shops, cafes and easy access to all the other necessities you would expect to find in an urban community. All within walking distance.”

Warden described a setting that would be a throwback to an urbanized lifestyle, accompanied by tree-lined streets.

“Remember, this will be part of Downtown Summerlin,” he said, “and what we’re really doing is building a downtown from scratch. We’ll be creating a synergy.”

The concept of constructing a downtown has been on Hughes’ drawing board for some time, awaiting the return of an economy that had been flattened for several years.

“We anticipate that when the regional retail center — or phase one — opens in October, it will spur activity in phase two,” Warden noted.

The plan for phase two is to create whole communities of self-contained, apartment-style living, with facilities for recreation, entertainment and restaurants.

When completed, Downtown Summerlin is expected to provide employment opportunities for thousands. The commercial tower in phase one will have 200,000 square feet of office space. Combined with the retail shops, the two phases will offer approximately 1.6 million square feet for business activity.

The possibility of a baseball stadium for the Las Vegas 51s within the second phase remains real. The new ownership of the team is seeking public support to move the 51s from the antiquated Cashman Field to a new ballpark in Downtown Summerlin.

Hughes is part of that new ownership, with a 50 percent stake. Regarding the stadium, Warden stated:

“While we cannot share any specifics at this time, we are making progress. The potential for both redevelopment of the current Cashman site as well as the building of a new stadium in Summerlin is strong. When completed, these projects would prove beneficial to the city of Las Vegas, Clark County, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, Summerlin and Southern Nevada’s baseball fans.”

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at