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Tivoli Village inspires optimism, even with empty interiors

Midway through walking through the unfinished Tivoli Village, marveling at the quality and the authenticity, delighting in memories of my past trips to Italy, I said three little words. "I love it."

Unwittingly, I had hit upon one reason the project at Rampart Boulevard and Alta Drive was named Tivoli. Read the letters backwards.

While the rest of the Las Vegas Valley is dotted with rusting commercial projects going nowhere, a tour of Tivoli Village brings a sense of optimism, walking by construction workers who have jobs and peeking inside buildings destined to become stores, offices and restaurants. It counterbalances the news that the Sahara closes March 16, tossing 1,050 workers out of work.

The open-air Tivoli Village, first started in 2006, was put on hold when the recession slapped our city in the face, but it’s back on track, and yes, I love it.

I admire its quality. I respect its sense of history. I enjoy the way it makes me feel like a Renaissance woman.

Everywhere I looked, even in hidden places like under the eaves of a roof or on a staircase, there was something to delight the eyes. Hints of Florence, Rome, even the Vatican. Hand-carved stonework. Inlaid marble and precious stone. Thirty kinds of stone from all over the world. Even the garage lobbies have handcrafted elements.

I drive by the site often, so when work nearly stopped on the 29-acre site in 2008, I fretted it would become another eyesore symbolizing bad times.

But it started up again in December 2009. The buildings became stare-worthy. When the Tivoli trees, man-made cherry trees with between 4,200 and 7,400 LED bulbs were turned on temporarily one night, it lifted my spirits to see pink lights reminiscent of cherry blossoms.

The scheduled soft opening of phase one has been pushed back to April 28, and a grand opening is planned for September. The exteriors are nearly done; the interiors are far from done. So the soft opening will have only 15 shops and maybe three or four restaurants open.

Don’t go expecting everything to be finished.

Even incomplete, it’s still a visual treat, a trip back in time to Renaissance Europe.

"We’re building something nobody has attempted to build in the United States, and here it is," said Yohan Lowie, chief executive officer of EHB Cos. and the visionary and designer of Tivoli. "The day we finish it, it looks very old and looks like it was built over 300 years by different builders."

Tivoli certainly isn’t the first local project to combine retail, office, entertainment and residential elements, although 340 condos won’t come until the housing market improves.

The materials alone lift Tivoli to a higher level. There is no comparing The District or Town Square, emulating Main Street USA, to a European village dating to the 1400s.

One other thing separates Tivoli from the others. Tivoli didn’t need financing and has no debt service.

The project, once estimated at $850 million (now closer to $650 million as costs dipped worldwide), is being developed by Las Vegas-based EHB and Israel’s IBD Group USA. They also built One Queensridge Place, luxury condo towers across the street.

Tivoli is built for regular folks who want to eat, drink, shop, conduct business, exercise, watch their kids play and maybe just sit and enjoy the setting.

"This is the heart of the project for me," Lowie said, pointing to the open-air stage and the children’s play area with a fountain for romping.

"We’re trying to bring people in who love art and architecture." As well as burgers and fries, sushi and nachos, beer and brats.

Interested in their next nearby project? Check out my Saturday column.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. E-mail her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call (702) 383-0275. She also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/morrison.

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