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Feature Story - January 2008

Lofty Gambles

High-rise Builders Bet Big on Downtown Las Vegas

Since the opening of SoHo Lofts in 2006, numerous high-rise condominium projects such as Newport Lofts, Juhl, Streamline and Stanhi are reinvigorating the once fallow grounds of downtown Las Vegas.


Downtown Las Vegas is bristling with renewed energy, excitement and enthusiasm as developer investment dollars once again make the area vital and relevant.

Applied Analysis, a Las Vegas-based economic research firm, reports that 859 units worth of luxury condominiums were under construction during the third quarter of 2007, and another 14,493 downtown units are planned or proposed for future development.

Lofty Gambles

“Downtown is definitely coming into its own,” says Paul Murad, a high-rise specialist and president of Metroplex Development Group, Las Vegas. “Once the projects now under construction come on line, it will boost the next phase of development.”

Much of the current activity stems from developer Sam Cherry’s initial gamble. The not yet 30-year-old developer helped launch downtown’s current construction craze with his SoHo Lofts project - a $67-million, 17-story residential high-rise that opened in early 2006. The 285-ft-tall cast-in-place tower at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Hoover Avenue is downtown’s first luxury residential tower.

Breslin Builders was the general contractor, with JMA as architect. Both are based in Las Vegas. The 120-unit building’s residences quickly sold out at about $300 per sq ft., although prices rose closer to $600 per sq ft as the project neared completion.

SoHo Lofts feature the type of resort-style amenities now considered commonplace with luxury high-rises such as a roof-top pool, Jacuzzi, fitness center, secured parking and ground-floor retail space.

“Once SoHo kicked off and people saw it coming out of the ground, the idea of vertical development spread like wildfire,” says Cherry, chief executive officer of Cherry Development of Las Vegas. “Suddenly there were high-rises cropping up all across the Valley, but without successful projects like SoHo, we’d be building more two-story homes and trying to expand east and west.”

Cherry, meanwhile, finished his second downtown project - Newport Lofts - in October. The $93-million, 23-story tower is on .48 acres at the northeast corner of Casino Center Boulevard and Hoover Avenue. The 348-ft-tall, 168-unit tower, which rests atop 160 micropiles up to-80 ft deep, is located across from SoHo Lofts. Breslin Builders, once again, is general contractor.

The steel-framed structure has a concrete shear-wall core with a skin wrapped in glass, metal and EIFS. The project saw 200 workers onsite during the peak of construction. Breslin used a self-jacking form system around the building core along with a tower crane for speedy erection.

The 440,840-sq-ft project required 20,000 cu yds of concrete and 3,500 tons of steel to complete.

“The building footprint takes up the entire site,” says Jack Breslin, president of Breslin Builders. “It’s also surrounded by neighboring businesses and homes. As a result, we used four neighboring properties for construction storage and staging.”

Designed by WPH Architecture, Las Vegas, Newport Lofts contains 12,000 -sq -ft of ground-level retail followed by seven levels of parking with residences above.

The rooftop amenities deck features an outdoor pool, spa and sunbathing area. The deck’s perimeter is lightly shaded by a tubular-steel, space-frame lattice canopy that appears to float above and acts as the project’s signature architectural element.

Newport Lofts is reportedly 75% sold out, with remaining units going for between $500,000 to over $2 million.

Breslin and Cherry are teaming again for a third project called “Stanhi” at the southwest corner of Gass Avenue and Third Street. The $200 million skyscraper marks the biggest undertaking to date for both firms.

Designed by WPH Architecture, the 45-story, 425-unit tower offers homes from 750 sq ft to 1,600 sq ft in size, with prices starting in the high $400,000s to more than $1 million.

The 478-ft-tall cast-in-place, post-tensioned tower will have a stepped profile that narrows into a sleek obelisk. Stanhi steps back at the seventh floor to create a 28,000-sq-ft amenities deck that includes an outdoor pool, cabanas and spa, pet area, fitness facility and clubhouse.

The tower tapers once more at the 35th floor for an open-air Zen-like garden and lounge. The 771,031-sq-ft Stanhi is scheduled to break ground in mid-2008 year and finish two years later.

Streamline Tower, however, is racing toward the finish line. Developed by Barclays North Inc. of Everett, Wash., the $107 million, 275-unit project at the southeast corner of Ogden Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard North is scheduled to finish on Feb. 14.

Martin-Harris Construction of Las Vegas, is the general contractor, with Houston-based PGAL LLC as architect. The tower is 70% sold, with remaining units ranging from the high $400,000s to over $1 million.

“There is $14 billion worth of spending in downtown,” says Dusty Allen, Streamline’s managing member. “It’s undergoing an urban renaissance much like what happened in San Diego’s Gaslamp District.”

The 271-ft-tall, cast-in-place tower consists of 11,000 sq ft worth of ground-level retail followed by a six-level, 428-space parking garage with one-, two- and three-bedroom residences above. The 621,000-sq-ft, horseshoe-shaped building is the first residential high-rise inside the city’s Entertainment District-a 3-year-old, six-block development overlay created to attract new investment activity.

Juhl, meanwhile, is taking shape nearby at Bonneville Avenue and Third Street. The $170 million mixed-use project consists of four concrete, steel and glass buildings of six, seven, nine and 15 stories tall. Tuner Construction Co., New York, is the general contractor.

The project features an enclosed five-level, 530-space enclosed garage topped by a landscaped pool deck with cabanas and lounge chairs. Juhl offers 346 condos and 13 live-work spaces with units priced from the $400,000s. It additionally has 24,000 sq ft worth of ground-level retail space, including 15 neighborhood shopkeeper units from 700 sq ft to 1,000 sq ft in size.

Juhl is the creation of San Diego-based CityMark Development, which helped transform its home city’s Gaslamp District with innovative mixed-use projects.

The 2.38-acre development in Las Vegas is scheduled to come online this year. 

Juhl could soon be joined by a batch of other proposed developments such as the $14 million, 78-unit ArtHaus at Casino Center Drive and Charleston Boulevard. The four-story, 132,000-sq-ft building, developed by San Diego-based Blokhaus, is scheduled to break ground early this year.

Verge Living Corp. broke ground on its $135-million, 318-unit mid-rise community on Dec. 12. “Verge” is on 2.7 acres at the northeast corner of Main Street and Bonanza Road.

TWC Construction, Henderson, is the general contractor, with Dennis Rusk as architect. The nine-story, 350,000-sq-ft building has 30,000 sq ft of ground-level retail space and a rooftop restaurant.  It’s scheduled to open by summer 2009.

Other proposed developments include Boulevard Properties’ 29-story, 159-unit Evolution Lofts at Charleston Boulevard and Third Street and Northwest Resource’s 27-story, 414-unit Cielo Vista at Washington Avenue and Veterans Memorial Drive.

Although some downtown projects have been canceled-including the 35-story, 398-unit Sandhurst tower at Iron Horse Court and Grand Central Parkway and the 60-story, 800-unit Club Renaissance at Bonneville Avenue and Casino Center Boulevard-the downtown area still accounted for 17.3% of the Las Vegas Valley’s total luxury condominium market in the third quarter, reports Applied Analysis.

“Downtown is the future,” Cherry says. “There was a time when you wouldn’t drive downtown, but today there’s a lot happening. It’s nice to know that you helped play a role in changing things.”


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