High-rise developer works to bring art museum to downtown Las Vegas

When Uri Vaknin made a major bet on the Las Vegas condo market in 2014 many thought he was crazy, yet, he’s still bullish on our city. And the success of his four downtown properties is proving he was right and the rest of the world was wrong!

Uri is a partner in KRE Capital, owners of four real estate projects including The Ogden and the Juhl in downtown Las Vegas. He is convinced that Las Vegas is becoming a world-class city. Here’s his story of why he thinks an art museum is our one missing ingredient and why he wants one here.

……

While I have only lived here a few years, I am already a proud Las Vegan and Nevadan. I relocated here in 2014 after my firm, KRE Capital LLC, took a major bet on Las Vegas, investing in the city’s condo market. An endeavor, by the way, which many thought was crazy. But we were, and still are, bullish on Las Vegas.

Our portfolio has performed very well, easily proving the naysayers wrong. The Ogden is now more than 65 percent sold, One Las Vegas is approaching 45 percent sold; Spanish Palms is sold out; and we just opened Juhl for sales.

What we understood in 2013 is now becoming reality: Las Vegas is becoming a world-class city. Its economic indicators are improving; tourism is returning to pre-recession numbers and has now surpassed them.

We were impressed with Tesla’s move to the state and Switch’s development of its significant presence in Las Vegas. We saw good governance on the local, county and state levels. And we believed in Mayor Goodman’s vision for the city of Las Vegas, particularly downtown, where two of our largest properties are located.

Already a world-renowned dining, entertainment and shopping capital, our city is now becoming a cultural hub. The openings of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, The Mob Museum and the Neon Museum signals a clear move in that direction. Yet, I remain dumbfounded that Las Vegas lacks a world-class art museum.

Some of my earliest indelible memories are family trips to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. I credit much of my business success to my exposure to the arts. It opened me to creativity. My properties have always outperformed similar developments — partly due to the creativity and arts infused into our communities.

So, when I learned that there was a group rallying for The Art Museum at Symphony Park, I quickly became engaged and now proudly serve as a board member. I have not only given my own money and time to this effort, but my company is also championing this initiative.

An art museum is important on so many levels. First and foremost, the Art Museum at Symphony Park will become a center of arts education for the valley’s children. Plus, an art museum is an economic driver. Every day, I speak with people who are moving to Las Vegas and are considering buying a condominium downtown. They want to live in a vibrant area with restaurants, boutiques, galleries and museums. Without the Arts District, The Smith Center and museums, I could not convince these folks to invest in downtown Las Vegas.

Las Vegas is on the cusp of becoming a world-class city. We have great transportation and infrastructure; affordable housing; access to first-rate recreation like Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Lake Mead, Mount Charleston and nearby national parks; outstanding higher education including a new medical school and a nationally ranked law school; improving public education and remarkable private schools; exceptional governance and a business-friendly environment.

And, now, we have not one but two professional sports teams — the Vegas Golden Knights and the Raiders — along with a second NASCAR race.

Yet, the one area where we are lacking is in the arts, particularly the visual arts.

My company is looking at some major new developments in the downtown Las Vegas market.

I can honestly say that the development of a world class art museum in Symphony Park would be a key determining factor. It is the final ingredient for Las Vegas to claim its destiny as a world class city.

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