Las Vegas Sun

April 17, 2014

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Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Big residential project pitched for downtown, and guess who’s not behind it

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Joe Schoenmann

With the help of commercial real estate broker Glenda Shaw, Karl Bonar and Mike Levin of Lucky Dirt LLC have put together 1.72 acres of land on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of Charleston Boulevard.

The biggest multi-unit, residential project to arise since Tony Hsieh arrived downtown — and one that has none of Hsieh’s fingerprints on it — is planned by two developers who believe the Arts District and south of it is going to be another boom area downtown.

With the help of commercial real estate broker Glenda Shaw, Karl Bonar and Mike Levin of Lucky Dirt LLC have put together 1.72 acres of land on Las Vegas Boulevard, south of Charleston Boulevard.

The land assemblage is rare downtown these days, in part because Hsieh and his $350 million Downtown Project have driven up land prices with the purchase of some 100 parcels throughout the downtown area over the last two years.

Several developers have told the Sun that those relatively high sales prices have led landowners to hold onto their properties, expecting a windfall when they sell. But the amount of money Downtown Project has paid and the amount those with less money can pay are very different, developer say.

Bonar and Levin spent eight months working on purchasing the nine properties, which are currently in escrow.

“And a lot of it is luck,” Bonar said.

Bonar said this week he’s been talking to city officials and hopes within six months to have architectural renderings of what could be a mixed-use, 10-story complex with offices and retail space on the first floor, parking three floors above that, and six more floors of residential apartments.

Their plan would create 350 to 450 apartments, ranging from affordable 400- to 650-square-foot spaces at about $1.50 a square foot in one tower, to what they are calling “affordable modern” apartments from 700 to 1,500 square feet in the other.

Contrary to the high-rises built during the mid-2000s boom, most of which were condos targeting tourists or those from out of state seeking second homes, these would all be rental units.

That makes sense on several levels, Bonar said.

For one, the influx of downtown workers aren’t all highly paid — think Zappos employees. And while they might like to live downtown, they may not be able to afford what has become a high-rent area.

“We believe in the whole concept of what’s happening downtown and we want to be a part of the energy,” Levin said. “We support everything Downtown Project and everyone else is doing...This is just going to be a different living option for the casino worker to the lawyer who works downtown.”

Secondly, financing for condominiums is extremely hard to get, while apartment construction financing is easier, Bonar said.

“That’s probably because the condo market took such a huge hit” during the recession, he said.

Other ideas for residential units have been mentioned in the last year.

During a presentation abougt downtown’s redevelopment several months ago, the head of Molasky Group of Cos. talked about building a mid-rise, multi-unit residential building close to the new Zappos headquarters, which is at Stewart Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.

Plans for a residential, multi-unit project near Charleston Boulevard and 10th Street also have lingered without any significant movement as of late.

The parcels assembled by Bonar and Levin stretch one block west from Las Vegas Boulevard to Fourth Street.

They begin about 1,000 feet south of Charleston Boulevard, roughly where Park Paseo Road bisects Las Vegas Boulevard, then zigzag south and west.

To those who believe the East Fremont Street area is the mecca of downtown redevelopment — that’s where Downtown Project has purchased most of its property — Lucky Dirt’s project more than a mile to the southwest might seem a little off base.

But Levin sees the area as ripe for redevelopment.

“We live in the downtown area and we want to create our own identity,” Levin said. “What’s happening is terrific. We’re just heading in a different direction.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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