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Ascaya, former symbol of real estate crash, is landing more sales

Driving around the Las Vegas Valley a decade or so ago, you were treated to a buffet of real estate failures.

From the Strip to the suburbs, Southern Nevada was littered with halted construction sites such as the towering Fontainebleau resort, the former ManhattanWest residential and commercial complex, and giant holes in the ground where high-rises were supposed to be built.

These and other plots were glaring symbols of Las Vegas’ cataclysmic real estate crash following its wild bubble — including, in Henderson, a luxury community blasted out of the mountains.

Developers of Ascaya halted sales before any homes were built, leaving its streets lined with empty cake-layered lots for years. They reopened as the economy crawled back from the Great Recession, and sales were slow at first.

But now, with the market on a lengthy hot streak, Ascaya is one of many areas riding the valley’s housing wave.

Sales revenue this year for its developer is on pace to double from 2020, when revenue was triple the average from the three years before that, Ascaya managing director Kelly Foster recently told me.

Most of the revenue is from sales of vacant lots, with a smaller portion from sales of speculative-built homes.

Its sales have accelerated alongside Southern Nevada’s broader housing market, which, fueled by low borrowing costs and people moving here from more-expensive areas, has seen a surge of transactions and prices over the past year or so.

Ascaya has attracted some big-name buyers, too. Raiders owner Mark Davis bought a 6.3-acre lot for $6 million last summer and has broken ground on a custom house, and rock star Gene Simmons of Kiss bought a 10,871-square-foot mansion and a half-acre lot next door for $10.8 million combined this year.

Both deals garnered headlines and put the spotlight on the mountain-mansion community.

“It doesn’t hurt when famous people buy things at your project, and then people like you write about them,” Mike Leipart, managing partner of The Agency Development Group, which was hired late last year to handle sales for Ascaya, said recently. “That definitely is some wind at our sail.”

Hong Kong billionaire Henry Cheng, chairman of conglomerate NWS Holdings Ltd., is developing Ascaya. Perched in the McCullough Range, the community boasts sweeping views of the valley, more than 300 homesites and street names such as Cloud Chaser Boulevard and Epic View Court.

Huge houses are required, as they must span at least 4,500 square feet, according to project director John Simmons.

The project was taking shape during the frenzied mid-2000s bubble, as work crews reportedly drilled, blasted and moved about 15 million cubic yards of material. Foster said that only three lots were under contract to sell when the economy crashed and Ascaya’s developers closed shop.

They reopened in 2014 and closed only two sales that year and three in 2015. The developers closed 11 sales last year and, as the market accelerated, 24 this year through mid-June, Clark County records indicate.

Being up in the mountains, homeowners there are also near some wildlife. A bighorn sheep was spotted in Ascaya during a recent tour.

“We have a herd of ’em in here,” Simmons said.

Ascaya may not look anything like a typical subdivision in the valley, but it has at least one thing in common: cluster mailboxes.

Turns out even the rich and famous don’t get their own mailbox in Southern Nevada.

“Can’t get that anymore,” Simmons said.

Contact Eli Segall at esegall@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0342. Follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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