Changes loom for The District in Henderson

The new owner of The District at Green Valley Ranch wants to bring vehicular traffic and parking to the shopping center’s main street, but some Henderson residents fear the change would harm the development’s peaceful environment.

“It would just become another strip mall,” Dave Daley said.

Daley and Tina Guard, who have shared a Henderson home since 2005, regularly visit The District. On Wednesday night, they ate dinner at Panera Bread. In warmer weather, they like to bring their dog to the center and dine outside.

“It’s family-friendly. It’s dog-friendly, pet-friendly, and we love it,” Tina Guard said.

If city officials allow cars on Village Walk Drive, the center’s main street, “the atmosphere would just be destroyed,” she added.

Vestar Development, in a joint venture with New York-based Rockwood Capital, acquired The District in 2011 for $79 million. Lenders had foreclosed on the 37-acre property earlier that year.

In November, the Phoenix company applied for a zone change that would allow the addition of vehicular traffic with angled parking on The District’s main street. Based on the recommendation of city staff, the Planning Commission voted 5-1 Thursday to approve the request, which will come before the City Council on Feb. 5. Commissioner Sean Fellows voted against it.

“When the project was originally approved and constructed, Village Walk Drive allowed two-way vehicular traffic along ‘Main Street’ of the district, and provided 42 parallel parking spaces,” according to the staff report. “In 2005, the previous owners of The District removed the vehicular access road (the main street) and replaced it with a pedestrian mall.”

Michael Tassi, planning manager for Henderson, said the roadway never was open for vehicular traffic.

The new owner wants to allow two-way traffic and add 46 angled parking spaces along the main street. The proposal also calls for the addition of two one-way, “out-only” drive aisles providing access to the parking lot on the north side of The District.

About a dozen members of the public spoke at Thursday’s meeting and expressed mixed opinions about the proposal.

Chris Connors, owner of Rachel’s Kitchen, said the change will bring added visibility to his restaurant. He estimated it will result in a 20 percent jump in his takeout orders. He also welcomes the plan to create more shade with a palm tree canopy.

One of Vestar’s owners, Jeff Axtell, addressed the commission Thursday night and said the company’s proposed changes will bring a “new energy” to the shopping center.

“I think we all agree that The District needs some fixing,” he said.

In December, John Achrem sent an email to the Planning Commission to share his concerns about the proposal.

Achrem serves as a board member and security committee chairman for The Masters Series at The Legacy Community Association and said many residents in the development, located near The District, oppose the plan.

In his email, he argued that the change would create a potential for pedestrian- and pet-related traffic accidents, make it easier for thieves to flee the area and diminish the aesthetics of the shopping center.

“We live here. This is our home, and Henderson is our town,” Achrem wrote. “We respectfully ask that the commissioners, who also reside here with us, prevent an out-of-state corporation from, at arm’s length, come in and empowering them to alter the way we live, change the things we have come to love about our area and risk the safety of us; all for a more profitable bottom line.”

On Wednesday, few people lingered in the chilly night air at The District’s pedestrian mall, where trees bedecked with white Christmas lights line the shops on both sides of Village Walk Drive.

Friends Arielle Bash and Krystal Borden, Henderson residents who say they shop at The District about once a week, weren’t aware of the plan to allow cars on the shopping center’s main street.

“I think it’s a bad idea,” Bash said.

She said the change would make her less likely to visit The District.

“The whole point is to walk around, enjoy the view and go into the shops,” Bash said.

But Borden liked the idea of additional parking spots.

“Usually I’m driving around looking for parking, and I can’t find any,” she said.

The first phase of The District, which included the retail shops and 88 luxury condominiums on Village Walk Drive, was developed in 2004.

Contact reporter Carri Geer Thevenot at cgeer@reviewjournal.com or 702-384-8710.

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