Shifting demand spurs new development in downtown Las Vegas

Real estate developers in Las Vegas are seeing growing demand for homes downtown.

An article in the Las Vegas Sun this week chronicles the change, explaining that offers for homes in the heart of the city are coming in above asking price, and as new amenities are created in the city developers expect demand to rise even higher.

“That’s what you need for a city to grow is rental housing,” said New York developer Barnet Liberman, as quoted by the Sun. “There shouldn’t be any barrier for lower-income people to be able to grow and prosper. The only question for developers, guys like myself, is they’ve got to know that there’s a real solid, almost certainty that if they do A, B and C, then they get D. When you see that the city is behind you in terms of a common goal, it helps eliminate some of the risk.”

Las Vegas' former City Hall at 400 Stewart Ave. The building is undergoing renovations to accomodate the new corporate headquarters for Image via Google Streetview.
The City of Las Vegas’ support for the type of development Liberman describes has grown clear in recent years. When online retailer Zappos wanted to move its corporate headquarters downtown, the Las Vegas City Council cleared the way for the company to make use of the former City Hall building. After a $65 million renovation is complete in 2014, 1,200 new employees will be working – and possibly living – in the heart of Las Vegas, a feat which would not have been possible without the cooperation of the City Council and Las Vegas’ existing business community.

Zappos’ commitment has helped catalyze further investment, and the city along with downtown business owners committed $5.5 million in 2007 toward repaving streets, widening sidewalks and adding neon signs to a three-block area known as the Fremont East District, all of which are meant to attract more companies and residents.

This development – along with new amenities like parks, libraries and neighborhood restaurants – is attracting a new breed of renters and buyers to downtown. Real estate specialist Jack LeVine, quoted by the Sun, described the people he’s recently found homes for. “This is the creative class, that’s who’s contacting me. These are Baby Boomers whose kids are grown so they want to move downtown; these are people who don’t want to live in the ‘burbs anymore.”

Together, these forces could mean a renaissance for downtown Las Vegas and a stronger regional economy in the state. Smart Growth America’s work supports several parts of this equation, including helping local governments encourage smart growth development, and working with real estate professionals interested in walkable, mixed-use development. Las Vegas is a great example of these forces coming together and making the entire region stronger as a result.

Photo by Flickr user David Grant.