An “exciting picture,” once painted by The Howard Hughes Corp. in the form of the first phase of Downtown Summerlin, has developed into more of a work-of-art masterpiece as the regional shopping and dining center prepares for its first anniversary in three weeks.
Early on “we painted an exciting picture, but the reality is far greater than I could have hoped,” beamed an enthusiastic Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for Hughes, developer of Summerlin.
“I once wondered what Downtown Summerlin would be like, but it’s even better than what I thought. It is truly a game-changing project for Summerlin and Las Vegas,” Warden added during an interview that also included Andrew Ciarrocchi, senior general manager of Downtown Summerlin, at Hughes’ offices on West Charleston Boulevard.
Ciarrocchi was equally exuberant as he talked about the growing crowds of shoppers that have added to the popularity of the regional center in so short a time. “Based on what the economy had done to the Las Vegas area, we turned a negative into a positive” – and in a relatively short time, he emphasized.
“We saw the steel become real in the form of an economic revival,” Ciarrocchi stated. He was referring to the specter of steel beams that sat idle for almost five years during the recession. The same site that now consists of more than 100 retail and dining establishments had been a haunting reminder, day after day, of what could have been. “Then the economy turned around. Everything changed. And here it is,” he said.
“Our retailers are satisfied,” Ciarrocchi continued, especially when it becomes incumbent for them to increase their staffs. “They’re adding more jobs and doing more for the customer base here. We opened at the right time, and we brought in the right retailers.”
Still more retail and restaurant facilities will be opening at Downtown Summerlin in the near future, “including a couple of large ones which we haven’t announced yet,” Ciarrocchi added. He noted that a marketing study is being undertaken to determine from where the increasing numbers of shoppers are coming.
Warden credited Red Rock Resort, located on Charleston Boulevard at the northwest corner of Downtown Summerlin, for bringing shoppers and diners to the regional center. “You can tell from the foot traffic that Red Rock Resort has done an extraordinary job of pulling visitors to Las Vegas off the Strip and out to Summerlin. So we have access to a lot of people from all over the country that we would not be seeing if it weren’t for Red Rock Resort. They have been a tremendous partner all along,” Warden said.
But what about the second phase of Downtown Summerlin, the 200 acres just east of the regional shopping and dining center? Scattered construction of condos was recently begun in some corners of the tract.
“The second phase will encompass a living area with at least 4,000 homes, ranging from town homes and brownstone neighborhoods all the way up to mid-rise and high-rise condos,” Warden explained. “It will be an area where people will want to live and work and play and shop and dine and be entertained, all in a vibrant urban setting.”
In essence, the second phase of Downtown Summerlin will consist of many of the elements that go into the creation of an urban environment. Warden produced architectural renderings that conceptualized these elements, including small parks, walking paths and small-traffic streets designed just for residents.
“Scattered throughout this urban neighborhood will be small office buildings, as well as what we call neighborhood services — the kind of shopping you would find in any urban setting,” he explained. The renderings showed a throwback to such basic urban living as street cafes, groceries, bakeries and a variety of other retail needs.
“Unlike the large regional center that now caters to shoppers and diners from everywhere, the kind of retail in phase two will be designed for the indigenous population. It will cater to everyday needs of those who live in Downtown Summerlin,” Warden explained.
“I want to point out that there’s an important sustainability issue here,” he said. “This kind of urban setting can provide a friendlier and more close-knit community.”
— 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 email@example.com.