Don’t look for a City Hall in Downtown Summerlin

Downtown suggests government services, so just to yank Tom Warden’s chain, I asked him what government services Downtown Summerlin will be providing when the massive outdoor mall officially opens today.

Warden, The Howard Hughes Corp.’s vice president of community and government affairs and a tease-worthy friend, knew a needle when he felt it, but one-upped me by saying there has been some talk with Clark County officials about possibly basing some government services there. Oh. Well. Never mind.

My gotcha was gotchaed right back. He wasn’t specific, just tossed out the idea of “some appropriate opportunities.”

But he stopped laughing when asked whether the project was the start of a new Southern Nevada city. The company is not pushing that idea, Warden said firmly and seriously. When the master-planned community was created, there was always a section dubbed as downtown. But there was no intention then or now to incorporate Summerlin as a city.

Wouldn’t Sin City Summerlin have a cachet? Some already call it Snotty Summerlin. (Disclosure: I live there.)

Warden stressed that creating a city was complex because it involved contracting for fire services, providing law enforcement and creating a city government. The Hughes Corp. doesn’t see that as a plus for the master-planned community.

A new city would carve out the wealthier areas from the city of Las Vegas and slaughter the existing city’s property tax base. The idea probably wouldn’t have much of a chance.

Downtown Summerlin is an anomaly. It’s in unincorporated Clark County, not the city of Las Vegas. In most cases, Sahara Avenue is the dividing line between city and county. But not so in Downtown Summerlin. There the dividing line is Charleston Boulevard.

The boundaries of Downtown Summerlin are Sahara Avenue, Charleston Boulevard, Town Center and the 215 Beltway. Clark County Commissioner Susan Brager represents the area, making her the unofficial mayor of Downtown Summerlin.

Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers represents the portion of Summerlin directly north of the mall. (Count that as another Warden tweak because he said “mall” perpetuates a misconception, since the long-term plan includes residential and offices. The build-out for the full 400 acres is expected to take between 10 and 15 years, depending on the economy. The mall is a mere 106-acre portion.)

Beers pooh-poohed the suggestion that Downtown Summerlin might be confused with downtown Las Vegas.

“I don’t think it will create any confusion beyond the confusion that already exists,” he said. “Only 25 percent of the valley’s residents live in Las Vegas, but 60 percent will swear they live in Las Vegas when they actually live in the county.”

His city has a population of 610,000, while unincorporated Clark County has 900,000 residents, and including the other cities, the entire county encompasses 2 million people.

As for confusion with city services, Beers dryly doubted people will head to Downtown Summerlin looking for water heater permits.

They’ll come to shop, eat, drink, see a movie and stop at Trader Joe’s. (Warden said that over the years, the most frequent request from people has been to include a Trader Joe’s grocery store there. The company listened.)

I suspect Downtown Summerlin will keep Summerlin folks from trekking to the Fashion Show mall because the two anchor stores, Macy’s and Dillards, are at both, along with specialty stores, like Teavana, Chico’s, the Art of Shaving and L’Occitane. But then the Fashion Show mall has tourists to keep it staying alive.

Meanwhile, with all the advertising of the opening, the Petula Clark hit “Downtown” has been buzzing my brain for weeks. Maybe Downtown Summerlin will be the place “when you’ve got worries, all the noise and the hurry seems to help, I know, downtown.”

May the song now rattle in your brain.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Thursday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com.

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