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‘Blank canvas’: 5K acres to be developed by NLV, UNLV

Updated May 1, 2024 - 5:46 pm

Roughly 5,000 acres of federal land in the north Las Vegas Valley is a ‘blank canvas’ for future development, UNLV’s president said.

UNLV and North Las Vegas are in discussions on how to develop the land located north of the VA Medical Center in a cohesive way after the entities take control of the property in the coming months, officials said. The property is currently controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

The university’s early plans for it’s portion of the land, roughly 2,000 acres, involves the creation of housing and a north campus for graduate students, UNLV President Keith Whitfield said. The development of health care and manufacturing facilities on the land also would give those emerging industries a boost in North Las Vegas, he said.

Opening up the land for both residential and commercial construction is critical for Southern Nevada as the region is running out of room for development as much of the surrounding land is owned by the BLM.

“There’s basically nothing in the valley that is as big as this,” Whitfield said in an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The size of this land is massive compared with other large chunks of land available in Southern Nevada. One of the biggest deals in recent years was Amazon’s purchase of 300 acres near Boulder City in 2023.

Plans for the land

Whitfield said he envisions the north campus as a satellite of its 350-acre main campus in the center of the Las Vegas Valley.

“When you have something that is that large of a blank canvas, it’s an interesting possibility to think about housing for our students, with the increase in housing prices and rentals, it makes it really difficult for our students, and particularly for our graduate students, to be able to have housing that could be affordable,” Whitfield said.

As a way of potentially bringing industrial and health care facilities to the North Las Vegas land, he said the university could enter into public-private partnerships similar to UNLV’s Harry Reid Research and Technology Park in southwest Las Vegas to help develop it.

North Las Vegas’ plans for its 3,000 acres are still in the “preliminary stages,” but Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown said in her 2024 State of the City address that it’s a “massive” opportunity.

“Together (UNLV and North Las Vegas) are discussing how we can use land, design, buildings, materials, public policy, ordinances and other innovative tools to improve health care outcomes for people by physically altering our environment,” Goynes-Brown said.

North Las Vegas is “considering all possible options” for the land, a city spokesperson said.

When could development start

It’s unclear when the 5,000 acres could be transferred to UNLV and North Las Vegas as some cleanup work is required because it was used for military training and exercises.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is handling the cleanup, said that the work is ongoing and the final report on the cleanup efforts could be completed in fiscal year 2028.

Whitfield said UNLV hopes some of the 2,000 acres could start to be transferred to university control in early 2025.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on X.

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