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Fremont9 apartments in downtown Las Vegas a rarity for area

The apartments can be small and the rents aren’t cheap, but dozens of tenants have moved to the new Fremont9 complex downtown, a member of the development team said Tuesday.

Fremont9’s ownership and Las Vegas city officials, including Mayor Carolyn Goodman, held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the five-story, 232-unit apartment complex.

The project, by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project and Arizona-based The Wolff Co., opened more than a year behind schedule.

The valley’s apartment-construction boom has been heavily concentrated in the suburbs amid an array of obstacles downtown. Fremont9, at Fremont and Ninth streets next to Atomic Liquors, is the neighborhood’s first big new rental complex in years.

“We hope this is one of many more to come,” Goodman said Tuesday.

The project caters to a younger crowd. The building’s murals include a young man wearing big headphones who is looking down at a smartphone, with a skateboard attached to his backpack and a samurai sword outside his gym bag.

“Located in the heart of the quirky, vibrant goodness that is downtown Las Vegas, Fremont9 is an apartment community that knows how to work hard and play even harder,” its website says. “Settle in, this is going to be fun.”

Nate Carlson, a vice president of development at Wolff, said in an interview that the building opened around Aug. 1 and is about 30 percent occupied. Apartments range from 400 square feet to as much as 2,000 square feet – the average is about 650 – and average rents are around $1.93 or $1.95 per square foot, he estimated.

Carlson acknowledged those prices are high for Las Vegas but said rental rates climb a bit in the urban core, where construction costs are typically higher than in the suburbs.

Downtown Project and Wolff held a groundbreaking ceremony in May 2016. At the time, Carlson said the group aimed to finish the project in the second quarter of 2017.

On Tuesday, he attributed the delay primarily to an ongoing construction-labor shortage.

“It was just pure economics,” he said. “Just not enough labor to build everything that wants to be built right now in Las Vegas.”

Despite downtown’s revival of recent years – led by Hsieh’s investments in retail, real estate and other ventures – apartment developers have largely been building elsewhere. Land prices downtown are expensive, the parcels are smaller, and it’s harder to assemble project sites because of fractured ownership of city blocks.

Suburban projects also are easier to finance, and developers haven’t been convinced they can fetch high-enough rents downtown to make projects feasible, real estate pros have said.

Downtown Project is a dominant property owner in the neighborhood, and Carlson said Wolff wouldn’t have built Fremont9 if it didn’t have a partner that already owned the land.

“It would have been nearly impossible or too expensive,” he said.

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

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