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Union Park may be delayed

Work is set to continue at the Union Park development in downtown Las Vegas even though some of the projects might be delayed by ongoing economic woes.

“People believe in the vision of Union Park,” said Rita Brandin, senior vice president of Newland Communities, which is managing the project for the city of Las Vegas. “We may not see it as early as we hoped.”

Backers of the 61-acre project on what used to be a railroad yard can point to progress in 2008. Construction is nearing completion on grading, drainage, utility and road work on the site, and the Lou Ruvo Brain Institute — a distinctive Frank Gehry-designed building — is set to open next year.

The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, which will anchor the development, is scheduled to begin construction next year, and development agreements are in place for a Charlie Palmer hotel/restaurant and the World Jewelry Center.

The agreements call for the jewelry center — a skyscraper housing gem and jewelry businesses from around the world — to start construction late next year, and for the Charlie Palmer hotel to begin construction in 2010.

With the collapse of credit markets, however, Brandin acknowledged that everyone will need to be “flexible.”

“We are mindful of the capital markets for construction,” Brandin said. “A lot of the timing is going to be what the market tells us.

“We’re in ongoing communications. We have not made any decisions or had any specific requests so far.”

Changes to those agreements would have to be approved by the Las Vegas City Council. The city of Las Vegas owns the property.

Still, Brandin said she expects the projects to go forward at some point, and that having some activity at the site keeps people interested.

“Keeping the energy and progress at Union Park moving forward will keep our third-party developers committed,” she said. “They have skin in the game. They will have expended funds for design and planning … and the city demands that they have non-reimbursable deposits. When a developer is committed, they’re committed.”

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