Henderson Historical Society lecture recounts Green Valley’s roots

Brad Nelson remembers a time when his wife worried about him driving along Green Valley Parkway before the area had been developed.

“My wife would always say, ‘Well, what if you break down, or what if something happens,’” said Nelson, former senior vice president for American Nevada Co., who develop Green Valley.

The once vacant area , which includes Green Valley Parkway, is now home to houses, storefronts and businesses. The creation of the master-planned community also helped fuel Henderson’s growth.

Green Valley was the subject of a recent lecture in the Henderson Speaks series, put on by the Henderson Historical Society. Historians, developers and longtime residents host events throughout the year to educate the public and preserve history.

“Desert to Green Valley — How Did It Happen?” was held March 15 at the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus, 700 College Drive, and featured a panel discussion with Nelson; Mark Fine, former president of American Nevada Co.; Robert Campbell , former city manager and senior vice president for Green Valley development; and Brian Greenspun , whose father, the late Hank Greenspun, was the impetus behind Green Valley’s development.

“My father had a vision for the area,” Greenspun said. “He built a town that helped build a city.”

The event explained Hank Greenspun’s efforts to acquire 8,400 acres of land and convince the city of Henderson to work to develop the area in the late 1970s.

“At that time, saying ‘I live in Henderson’ wasn’t really something you said,” Fine said. “In Vegas, about 2,000 homes were being sold a year. None of them were in Henderson.”

The idea for the community changed over time. When Green Valley was first being expanded, developers were adamant they wouldn’t allow gas stations in the community.

“You would have to get gas when you leave (Green Valley) or when you were coming back,” Nelson said, getting a laugh from the crowd.

Working together, they were able to bring in the first home builders, bring about community spaces such as Fox Ridge Park and erect shopping centers with the first Smith’s grocery store in 1981 of the area.

Each speaker talked about the challenges faced throughout the process, such as resistance from residents who wouldn’t recognize Green Valley as a part of Henderson.

Campbell said one obstacle was figuring out what to do in case of if there was a fire — the closest fire station in Henderson at the time was 15 minutes away, and the city couldn’t afford to construct a new one.

A house in Green Valley served as a makeshift station with two or three firemen and a large water truck, which could keep a fire at bay while the main truck was en route.

“It turns out, the ladies in the community really liked that idea,” Campbell said.

By the mid-1990s, Green Valley was deeply rooted in Henderson and had created communities such as The Village of Fox Ridge, the Legacy Village and Green Valley Ranch.

Greenspun recalled asking his dad if Green Valley was everything he thought it would be.

“He said, ‘Yes, but with one exception,’” Greenspun said. “He said, ‘I always thought it would be my grandchildren who would build it.’”