"Famous" Mark buys a few drinks from Las Vegas Convenience before heading home to his nearby apartment on a Thursday afternoon. A few guys walk by outside, looking for aluminum cans to recycle. Down the other end of the Western Village center, Jemal Saleh leaves the Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant after a long lunch spent chatting with neighbors.
That's life in the Sierra Vista neighborhood. It won't be like that much longer.
Sierra Vista Drive, a street that extends only from Maryland Parkway to Paradise Road, houses a series of small, downmarket apartment complexes and a couple of neighborhood shopping centers. Each month, the neighborhood in the shadow of the Las Vegas Convention Center comes a little closer to oblivion.
In April, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board of directors approved a $25 million bond issue to finance multiple real estate transactions, including those on Sierra Vista Drive.
On Tuesday, the authority board authorized its second Sierra Vista Drive purchase in two months, agreeing to pay San Francisco-based CA Mortgage & Realty $15.03 million for the 220-unit Sierra Vista Apartments. The land will become part of the Silver 5 parking lot, and could be used for parking, freight storage and future convention center expansion.
"This would be a great alternative lot," said Terry Jicinsky, senior vice president of operations for the authority. "It could give up to 1,000 additional spaces."
Luke Puschnig, the authority's legal counsel, said, "This is a critical piece of property for the LVCVA to acquire to give the Las Vegas Convention Center that leg up on competitiveness."
Last month, the board approved a $7 million acquisition of another 1.4 acres at 806-820 Sierra Vista Drive, otherwise known as the Garden Park Apartments a 46-unit complex with 22 occupied units. The seller in the $5 million-per-acre transaction that includes Garden Park is LV Angelo LLC, for which the Nevada secretary of state lists Peter and Vicky Palivos as managers.
The convention authority is happy to get the property, but some in the area think the board is paying too much in a recessionary market.
"I'm actually amazed that (the convention authority) would pay that much per acre in this economy. Across the street there's a parcel that's half that (cost) per acre available, already cleared," said Sasha Mager, owner of Mager Capital, a real estate lender who has been critical of the deals. "It just seems a little irresponsible. It doesn't seem right to me."
Puschnig said the authority isn't interested in the parcel Mager points to - wrong side of the street.
"We have appraisals,'' Puschnig said. "Some of those appraisals are much higher. Some of them are consistent with what we've paid."
The Garden Park location would provide the authority access from Sierra Vista Drive and Swenson Road, adjacent to the center's 8.4-acre purple lot - once the site of the 700-unit Blue Harbor Apartments.
After demolition, the Garden Park site will become a 120-space paid parking lot and will be used for trade show storage and staging.
Residents of the apartments say they haven't yet been told when they'll have to move out.
"We're up in the air and we'd really like to know what's going on," said Richard Glickman, 76, who has shared a Garden Park home with his son for the past five years.
On Thursday, Esmeralda Bravo, the property's manager, said residents will be informed of the complex's plans by the end of next week.
Neither Bravo nor Glickman know where they'll move next.
A Sierra Vista Apartments employee said he didn't know the property had been sold. The owners declined to comment for this story.
Demolition for convention center purposes will be felt beyond the old apartment buildings.
Saleh, the Dukem Ethiopian Restaurant customer, lives in a home that isn't in the path of center expansion. But he's a regular at Dukem and at La Costa Mexican Restaurant in Western Village, which is surrounded by the Garden Park Apartments and the authority's purple parking lot.
"The people who own these businesses will be affected once more apartments are gone from the area," Saleh said. "I like to come here and hang out and see my neighbors."
Puschnig said the authority has looked at buying out Western Village, and "discussions are potentially ongoing, but at this time there are no set plans at all for that property."
Nick Kalandos owns Las Vegas Convenience, a store that sees a steady stream of customers, most of whom live in the surrounding apartments. Kalandos said regular customers like "Famous" Mark keep him in business, and that his sales dropped 60 percent to 65 percent when the Blue Harbor apartments were demolished.
"It was a really bad time for me," he remembered.
Although sales aren't what they used to be, Kalandos is still making it. But he isn't sure he'll be able to maintain sales when he loses more residents as the convention authority demolishes more apartment buildings.
"If I lose those apartments, it's going to take me out very fast," Kalandos said.
Puschnig, though, said the area's stores and restaurants probably would benefit from the influx of construction workers, laborers and convention employees that will come to the area once the parcels are in use by the travel board.
"It could be a substantial benefit to some of those businesses," Puschnig said.
Contact reporter Laura Carroll at email@example.com or 702-380-4588.