Forum tackles residential development in downtown Las Vegas

Updated June 14, 2017 - 9:00 pm

The key to giving downtown Las Vegas residential development a big boost might be thinking small.

Prominent developer Peter Cummings had that advice for a group of Las Vegans on Wednesday.

“Large is the Strip,” Cummings said. “I think there’s an opportunity to create a more intimate, organic, user-friendly kind of environment here.”

A panel of high-profile Las Vegans from real estate and development hashed out challenges and successes of advancing downtown residential development in a forum at City Hall on Wednesday, staged by the Downtown Vegas Alliance in partnership with the city.

“We couldn’t get lenders down here, we couldn’t get appraisers down here, I couldn’t get my friends down here,” said Sam Cherry, a Las Vegas planning commissioner who is Sam Cherry Development’s CEO. “That’s really flipped.”

Downtown Las Vegas has seen a lot of changes over the past several years, with The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Mob Museum and a few residential high-rises going up.

Cummings said he loves developing near health care, educational and cultural institutions. He emphasized programming to partner with real estate, highlighting a halfpipe event inside Detroit’s iconic Fisher Building, an art deco skyscraper. The event showed that skaters, youth and people from any walk of life were welcome in the old building that was being brought back to life.

Several speakers Wednesday emphasized the need for a critical mass of residents living within walking distance of the heart of downtown to reach the level vitality other city centers boast.

The opening of a Whole Foods market in Detroit’s Midtown neighborhood was a seminal moment for Cummings. It changed his view of Detroit from a blighted, distressed market to one where residents were underserved.

If the high-end grocery chain were to open a downtown Las Vegas location, many here would likely see it the same way.

But Christina Roush of HB Properties said that’s probably a way off because there aren’t enough people living downtown and there’s not enough of a nongaming employment base, said.

“It’s a vicious circle,” said Roush, who ran unsuccessfully for City Council earlier this year. “It’s a real chicken-and-egg issue.”

Hopes are high for downtown’s future. One anticipated downtown residential building, Fremont 9, is going up now, a stone’s throw from the Fremont East entertainment district.

John Curran, the Downtown Project’s real estate portfolio manager, said demand for microunits in The 211 property “boosted our confidence and has us feeling very bullish” about Fremont 9 and beyond.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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