Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2009 | 12:21 p.m.
When the Howard Hughes Corporation started building Summerlin in 1990, the company knew it would be decades before its 22,500-acre planned community would be complete.
Although the burst of the housing bubble and credit crunch have slowed development, the company is primed to restart housing and retail projects as soon as the market turns around, said Tom Warden, the company's senior vice president of community and government relations.
The company has infrastructure in the ground and plans on the drawing board, he said. Plus, the company is not saddled with debt from land purchases because Hughes bought what would become Summerlin and Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in 1952.
"It's cyclic and it's going to come back and when it does we're in an extraordinarily good position," Warden said. "When things turn around, we'll hit the ground running."
Warden made the comments on Feb. 5 at a breakfast the company hosted for community members that maintain blogs about Summerlin.
Developers are still interested in Summerlin because it has a track record of being a desirable place to live, he said. The community has about 9,000 acres yet to be developed.
"Business in general is slow but it's business as usual in Summerlin," Warden said.
Howard Hughes' parent company, General Growth Properties Inc. of Chicago, is facing billions of dollars in debt including debt on other properties it owns in Las Vegas such as Fashion Show mall and the Grand Canal Shoppes in the Venetian.
It has slowed development as it tries to remain current on debt. The "downtown" retail and residential project called Shops at Summerlin Centre is still under construction, but it's opening date was pushed back one year to the fall of 2010.
It is on 107 acres just south of Red Rock Resort between Pavilion Center Drive and the Las Vegas Beltway.
General Growth was also a partner in Boyd Gaming's Echelon resort and had planned to develop the retail portion, called High Street. Boyd halted the $4.8 billion resort on the Strip through 2009 at least.
Housing analyst Steve Bottfeld of Las Vegas-based Marketing Solutions said delaying the projects was the right move and agrees that Summerlin remains attractive to home buyers and developers.
Nobody can accurately predict how 2009 will play out, he said. However, Summerlin is one of best-designed planned communities, has a smart management team and takes care of its builders, which gives it an advantage.
"They have done a good job of keeping the advertising going and keeping the word out there and believe me, builder clients appreciate that, particularly as their own budgets get diminished by the current economic situation," Bottfeld said. "Not every master plan, not every community in this town is going to be sitting on equal footing with Summerlin."
Jeff Pope can be reached at 990-2688 or [email protected].