Herb Jaffe: Reverence the newest sign of Summerlin’s big rebound

Updated May 16, 2017 - 12:38 pm

You stand atop a hill high above Route 215 and the westerly end of Summerlin Parkway, both of which are about half a mile away, and you gaze in every direction at the breathtaking, almost intoxicating view.

Moments later you watch as dignitaries on that very site pose for photos at the groundbreaking of a 13,000-square-foot recreation center that will become the focal point of Pulte Homes’ 300-acre Reverence Village.

Among the dignitaries who helped put the gold-plated shovels into the ground were Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman and Ward 4 Councilman Stavros Anthony. Both spoke with glowing anticipation of the more than 900 new families and the economic impact they will bring to Summerlin’s newest development.

Another of the dignitaries was Ryan Breen, division president of Pulte Las Vegas and the single developer of Reverence. Breen waited 10 years for the occasion, sweating out thick and thin through the most costly recession ever to hit Las Vegas. Reverence had been on Pulte’s drawing board for that long. Breen said it was worth the wait, calling Summerlin “one of the country’s premier communities.”

None of the hundred or so guests at the ceremony would disagree, nor would they question the splendor of Summerlin.

Just two months earlier Anthony, one of the most vocal supporters of Summerlin, sat with me and Jason Demuth, Pulte’s director of marketing, in a coffee shop in nearby Sun City. “This is a big deal — in fact, a very big deal,” the ebullient councilman, in whose ward Reverence is being built, said about the groundbreaking.

“We’re going to have a big-time ceremony, a big splash. … The mayor, lots of dignitaries, the whole works,” Anthony went on. Indeed, the councilman spoke like a prophet.

But you need not be very prophetic these days when you talk about the virtues of Summerlin. What is now one of the most attractive and sought-after master-planned communities in the U.S. was once nothing more than a wasteland of some 25,000 acres that Howard Hughes, the wealthy eccentric of yesteryear, purchased from the federal government for less than $3 an acre in the mid-1950s.

An Excellent biography of Hughes — “Power, Paranoia & Palace Intrigue” — was written by Geoff Schumacher, a former assistant editor at the Las Vegas Review-Journal and now a director at the Mob Museum in downtown Las Vegas. Schumacher said in his book, published in 2008:

“If I had to vote on the single most significant legacy of Hughes’ involvement with Las Vegas, I would choose Summerlin. It was and remains the most vibrant and attractive address in the Las Vegas Valley.”

So Reverence will soon rise in the northwest mountainous sector, high above most of Summerlin, as part of “a master plan that sets the standard for quality of life,” Goodman said.

Anthony expressed excitement over “the hundreds of construction jobs” and “just how big it will be for our economy.”

Irrespective of his adventurous and sometimes misguided life, Hughes never got to see the emergence of Summerlin as the idyllic model for community life. He might have been in awe had he witnessed the development of village-type residential complexes accompanied by amenities that have become so attractive to newcomers.

Downtown Summerlin, also a victim of the recession and delayed for years, has far exceeded the definition of success envisioned by its planners. Those who flock to its retailers and restaurants, to Red Rock Resorts and to the Costco shopping district continue to grow in number.

Then there’s the ice hockey facility being built for the Las Vegas Golden Knights, just opposite Downtown Summerlin. And buzz has it that a baseball stadium for the Las Vegas 51s, next door, is coming soon.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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