Revival of Summerlin Centre a harbinger of good things to come

Could it be that Summerlin is leading the way toward an economic recovery for Las Vegas? Think about it. The resurgence might be happening right under our noses. And if you are a realist, you might conclude the inevitability for Summerlin to be the catalyst.

Proof is that the kind of activity that spells jobs is happening again in Summerlin, after years of dormancy. It’s called construction. You can also think about that the next time you drive through certain neighborhoods in the northwest, where you will witness more than 12 new residential communities on the rise.

Then factor into the same equation the resurrection of that 106-acre retail and commercial site along the Las Vegas Beltway just south of Red Rock Resort, where steel structures have stood for years as a haunting reminder of an economically troubled time in our lives.

Yes, indeed, after almost five years of inactivity, what will ultimately become the heart of Summerlin has begun to make its long-awaited resurgence.

The revival of Summerlin Centre, renamed the Shops at Summerlin, is not only back on the architectural boards, but combined with the activity in residential construction and a healthy increase in the sales of new homes, Summerlin has begun to bustle again.

And you can take that from a guy who knows. Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for The Howard Hughes Corp., developer of Summerlin, couldn’t have been more succinct when he said, "This is the year of our reawakening."

It was just a matter of time before that "reawakening" generated a resuscitation of the Shops at Summerlin, with the announcement that Macy’s will build a two-level, 180,000-square-foot department store on the site, scheduled to open in 2014. Other retail and commercial ventures will follow, with more than 125 shops in all, Warden said. He added that Hughes is already in active talks with a significant number of retail companies.

"We see the reawakening in residential construction," he said, pointing as examples to several new communities being developed by Toll Brothers, Lennar Homes and Woodside Homes in west and northwest Summerlin.

"There’s at least a dozen or more neighborhoods with new residential construction," he said. "I recently drove by one of the communities called Andalusia, and I stopped to listen to the buzz of saws and the pounding of hammers. I have to tell you that it was music to my ears. I call it the music of reawakening. It’s the kind of music that tells you people are working again, that positive things are happening."

Sadly, it took a Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the original owner of the Shops at Summerlin site before the process of resurrection could begin. General Growth Properties of Chicago, once the nation’s second-largest owner of shopping malls, suffered a multibillion-dollar loss during the recession. A new organization called The Howard Hughes Corp. was one of the separate companies that emerged from the wreckage.

As for present conditions at the site of the new retail and commercial center, Warden said much of the bare steel frames constructed in 2007-08 are still usable.

"We’re fortunate that we live in Las Vegas, in a dry environment," he said, explaining that engineers and technicians have found that "much of the steel is still structurally sound. So the site is already 10 steps ahead."

Warden referred to plans for the new center, combined with the upsurge in residential construction in Summerlin, as "not only a move forward but a show of confidence by a lot of individuals who envision good things and better times ahead. And it’s not just The Howard Hughes Corp. saying that.

"It shows a degree of consumer confidence by new homebuyers. And at the same time, the revival of plans to build the regional Shops at Summerlin shows a similar confidence. So, when we talk about developing a 1.5 million-square-foot center within such close proximity to those new homes, that makes it a double shot of confidence in our local economy."

Warden said new construction at Shops at Summerlin will start early next year.

Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. His newest novel, "All For Nothing," is now available. Contact him at

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