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Those dismayed by parking woes owe Downtown Summerlin second chance

The reviews are in. The handful of critics, pessimists and nit-pickers have had their day, but the overwhelming response has been just what many expected: Downtown Summerlin is far beyond the phenomenal success that was expected.

Two months have gone by since its opening, and after opinions have been expressed galore, one other thing stands out clearly: The retail center will continue to ride the train to the top of the heap, and not just from a commercial and economic viewpoint.

It will serve as the ultimate catalyst for the development of all of Summerlin into one of the most desirable communities in America.

And the sites for development are not just the 200 empty acres of desert that sit contiguous to the retail center and Red Rock Resort, and that one day will carry the banner of a fully developed Downtown Summerlin. Nearly a quarter of the acreage remains to be developed of the 22,500 acres called Summerlin, almost all of which is earmarked for housing.

When the developer, The Howard Hughes Corp., set out to pick up the pieces after the worst financial nightmare to hit Las Vegas since the Great Depression of the 1930s, it had all the makings of a gamble. Think back only three years ago to that haunting specter of a vast tract of desert that served as a backdrop for some idle steelwork, all of which has since been developed into something truly special.

Perhaps Hughes CEO David Weinreb hit the nail squarely when he commented, “We’ve created a downtown that’s unrivaled anywhere in the country.”

Of course there are problems, just as there are with any new development: parking, for one, and traffic, especially during the holiday shopping season.

But some skeptics who visited the retail center on opening weekend in October might have reached premature conclusions. The opening dates had been widely advertised for months in advance. The result was not only tens of thousands of shoppers but tens of thousands of sightseers, as well.

For example, a letter to View from reader Bruce A. Kesselman provided some strong observations:

“Other than high gas prices and having to pump my own gas, moving to Las Vegas from New Jersey six years ago proved to be exactly what I wanted: extremely low property taxes, no state income tax, no multi-car accidents during icy snowstorms, no tracking in mud to my car or home during a pouring rain.

“Free parking everywhere — or a few bucks tip for the valet. Everything has been great until I went to Downtown Summerlin this past weekend. I thought I was back in New Jersey. Twenty minutes to circle the complex with no parking available near where I wanted to go …”

Kesselman’s letter went on to mention certain retailers he wanted to visit but was unable to find close enough parking to, “unless you wanted to carry everything to the parking garage across the way.”

It should be noted that since Kesselman’s letter arrived at View four days after the formal opening of Downtown Summerlin, gas prices in Las Vegas, New Jersey and everywhere else in the U.S. tumbled dramatically.

But more to the point, the reader was saying, in effect, that he chose to relocate to Las Vegas for the reasons he mentioned. Parenthetically, I, too, was once a resident of New Jersey, and the reasons Kesselman cited were as much reasons for the move my wife and I made as they were for Kesselmen.

One of his conclusions was, “I’ll continue going to Trader Joe’s on Rainbow, Dillard’s at Meadows Mall, and Five Guys at Flamingo and 215.”

Of course, where Kesselman chooses to shop is his prerogative. However, it would be fair for him or any other reader with similar criticism to keep in mind that problems encountered on the opening day of any major event should never be a reason for downright condemnation.

My suggestion? Weed out the gawkers who came on those opening days, and give it another shot. Above all, Downtown Summerlin does not pose anything near the magnitude of problems faced by the big retail centers along New Jersey’s Route 1, Route 22 or Route 46, where traffic is constant, and parking is forever a nightmare.

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 most recent novel, “Double Play,” is now available. Contact him at hjaffe@cox.net.

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