Las Vegas Sun

November 26, 2014

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A snapshot of downtown’s future, if dominoes fall right

The Las Vegas City Council got a look last week at what could be the downtown of the future, a vision featuring a sports arena, a civic center, a new 1,000-room hotel , a transit terminal and glittering new office and retail spaces.

The dreamed-of change to the city's skyline on and around Union Park is in the early stages and even its most ardent advocates acknowledge that it's a gamble. But then, what in Las Vegas isn't?

If the ambitious glimpse of the future is to become a reality, one thing that has to happen is for City Hall to move, something the council has long wanted to do anyway.

"It's sort of like a set of dominoes falling," said Scott Adams, the city's director of business development. "If we can get the permanent City Hall site, it's kind of like the first domino to go down."

The city hopes that the company selected to oversee the project then will be able to make the other dominoes fall in place , as it has with developments in other cities.

Cleveland-based Forest City Enterprises is a premier urban retail developer with an $8.5 billion portfolio. Its projects include the Victoria Gardens regional mall in California and Tower City Center in Cleveland.

"You have to have someone who understands how to put everything together," Adams said. "When you look at Forest City Enterprises' portfolio and experience, they're right there as that kind of a developer."

In addition to moving City Hall, the plan hinges on a property swap.

Last Wednesday the council approved a 120-day exclusive negotiating agreement with City Parkway V Inc., Livework LLC and Zoe Properties LLC.

City Parkway V - the city - owns two parcels at the north end of Union Park, while Livework and Zoe Properties own the block bounded by Main, Lewis, First and Clark streets, known as the Queen of Hearts block.

A property swap would let the city build a 300,000-square-foot City Hall on the Queen of Hearts block, with Livework and Zoe Properties developing a gaming complex at Union Park.

Adams said the deal could be the catalyst for the next stage of major downtown development.

"It's why I presented it at a high level of importance, even thought it's still early " in the process, Adams said.

The swap's effect, Adams said, could extend well beyond the value of the individual projects.

A new City Hall civic center is envisioned as a hub in a development corridor linking downtown to Union Park, the property formerly known as the 61 acres site.

Union Park will boast the $250 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts, the Frank Gehry-designed $70 million Lou Ruvo Brain Institute and a 54-story headquarters and retail space for jewelry wholesalers.

A gaming partner for the proposed casino has not been picked, but Adams anticipates plenty of interest in a development that could top $1 billion.

The plan includes a 4,500-car garage and an office project with up to 1 million square feet of office space, with ground-floor retail and a retail esplanade extending from Lewis Avenue to Bonneville Avenue.

Livework has been putting together its end of the project for about two years , and discussions among all the parties have been going on for about six months, Adams said.

"You may have noticed there are no terms in the agreements," he said. "We are still in the very early stages."

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