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The Cosmopolitan


Las Vegas closing in on full house
By John Ritter, USA TODAY
LAS VEGAS Flying into this desert metropolis is as deceiving as a mirage. From 10,000 feet you see empty land in all directions and swear the pace of suburban sprawl could go on unchecked.
You'd swear no end's in sight to subdivisions stretching for miles beyond the Strip, enclaves of single-family houses that draw thousands of Californians and other migrants a year.
Look again. The valley that Las Vegas and 1.8 million residents call home is nearly built out. Mountains, national parks, military bases, an Indian community and a critter called the desert tortoise have Sin City hemmed in. At the current building pace in the USA's fastest-growing major metro area, available acreage will be gone in less than a decade, developers and real estate analysts say.
Yet growth pressure and housing demand won't abate. Greater Las Vegas will add 1 million residents in the next 10 years, state estimates say, and hit 3 million by 2020.
"You hear anywhere from a seven to 10 years supply at our growth rates and the valley's full," says developer Kenneth Smith of Glen, Smith and Glen. At least $20 billion in new projects are planned on the Strip, including 40,000 more hotel rooms, says the Nevada Development Authority.
A scarcity of land or just as important, says Hal Rothman, a University of Nevada-Las Vegas history professor, the perception that it's scarce is driving prices skyward. "The result was a rush," he says. "The situation is making a new valley around us, one that will be more crowded and expensive."
Developers who 15 years ago paid less than $40,000 an acre are paying more than $300,000 today. In an auction of public land that went on the market last year, a developer paid $639 million for 2,655 acres.
The Las Vegas stereotype of cheap housing, cheap labor and a limitless supply of cheap desert land is dying. The metro area has tripled in size since 1986, pushing close to public lands and critical tortoise habitat. A 1998 federal law that grew out of a legal settlement to protect habitat drew a boundary and set limits on future growth. The law authorized the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to sell land it owns inside the boundary when Clark County or its cities wanted to grow. About 75,000 acres were supposed to last 30 years, but two-thirds has been snapped up.
The rest is being consumed at 6,000 to 7,000 acres a year, estimates the CEO of Focus One Property, John Ritter (no relation to the reporter). His company paid $557 million for 1,940 acres in 2004 and $510 million for 1,710 last year.
Vast cookie-cutter subdivisions, as symbolic of Las Vegas' extended boom as its megacasinos, will be consigned to far-flung areas beyond the metro core, requiring hefty commutes to the Strip and other job centers, developers say. In the valley, "the big house on the big lot is more the exception than the rule now," Ritter says.
Building farther out
Las Vegas builders will go north outside the valley along Interstate 15 toward Mesquite, and south, toward Kingman, Ariz., and the site of a proposed new airport, says Somer Hollingsworth, president of the Nevada Development Authority. "This is a whole new ballgame .... thinking like a big city," he says.
Developers are leapfrogging over BLM land with plans for big projects, such as 42,000-acre Coyote Springs 50 miles north of here. That's "drive until you qualify" territory for home buyers seeking affordable mortgages. But costs of building roads, sewers and utilities "are incredible," says Steve Bottfeld, senior analyst of Marketing Solutions, a local research firm. "Don't look for it to happen in 10 years."
Las Vegas' real estate market has softened, but not as much as in the rest of the country. Demand remains high.
"Everybody thinks the sky is falling because their home isn't selling in 24 hours for more than the asking price like the last few years," developer Smith says. "That market was white-hot and unhealthy."
Developers don't expect land prices to fall. They're packing houses in traditional subdivisions so close together neighbors can practically shake hands out their windows. Economics are moving developers toward a slow embrace of trends familiar elsewhere.
Mixing housing, retail
High-rises, shorter "mid-rises" and town houses aren't confined to the Strip and downtown Las Vegas. Projects that planners in other cities call "smart growth" and "new urbanism" are on drawing boards across Clark County.
That means more units to an acre and a variety of housing types and architectural styles, tiny yards or no yards but generous public spaces, narrow one-way streets that slow traffic, neighborhood designs that promote walking and old-fashioned alleys with garages in back instead of showcased out front.
"This isn't something that's trickling down, it's flowing down, top to bottom, fast," Bottfeld says. "It's the Manhattanization of Las Vegas."
Focus One has three new urbanism projects in design. "It's like Southern California, New York, San Francisco and any other place with a very constrained supply of land and a lot of demand," Ritter says.
"Mixed use" is now in vogue projects that blend housing, retail and entertainment and cut down on driving. Sullivan Square will be built on that model: 1,300 units in 20-story high-rises on 16.5 acres off the Interstate 215 beltway, 6 miles from the Strip.
"It's very Old World, very European," says Marc Medrano, a casino designer who bought a 17th-floor unit because he got tired of maintaining a big yard at his house on a golf course. "It's like a self-contained walking community," he says. "You could go to the gym, go to the bank, go to the butcher, get your lashes tinted, whatever."
Consumers don't resist because most Las Vegans are from someplace else, Smith says. "They've seen it, they know it, they're comfortable with it," he says. "We hear people say, 'I never thought it would happen here. I've been waiting for it.' "
Since Clark County passed zoning changes that promote higher density, more than 80 projects have been approved in the past two years. "This is the time to be visionary, to do things that urban areas seem to do historically, which is become more dense," says Clark County Commissioner Rory Reid.


Las Vegas Real Estate

Las Vegas real estate offers a variety of lifestyle opportunities for the 5000+ primary residents who choose to relocate to Las Vegas each month, those who are looking for a Las Vegas retirement community, the vacation home buyers seeking a new Las Vegas high rise condo or a Las Vegas golf course home, or even  a hotel-condo near the Las Vegas strip, the young professionals seeking a trendy & modern new Las Vegas loft , and the Las Vegas real estate investor looking for a viable Las Vegas preconstruction real estate investment.


With the entry of MGM City Center Las Vegas into the Las Vegas luxury real estate market, luxury high rise condominium living on the Las Vegas strip will now be possible. The Las Vegas strip has previously been a tourist only area. MGM City Center Las Vegas and SKY Las Vegas high rise condominiums will now make it possible for people to own a high rise condominium right on the Strip.


These new Las Vegas real estate preconstruction condos offer a unique Las Vegas real estate investment opportunity, as well as a luxury high rise condo lifestyle second to none in urban living.


MGM City Center Las Vegas, when completed at the end of 2009, will create 12,000 new jobs.  Preconstruction condos such as Loft 5 and L5 Las Vegas Lofts are being built on the south strip, just 4 miles south of Mandalay Bay. These hip, modern, totally upgraded lofts, offer those who work on the strip an amazing luxury lifestyle and a unique architectural design that is a first in Las Vegas real estate.


Investors should not be gun-shy of participating in Las Vegas real estate at this time - just the opposite. All statistics for Las Vegas job growth, unemployment and population increase point to a strong economy.  With the recent increased real estate appreciation and the affordability of Las Vegas real estate declining, the Las Vegas real estate rental market should be getting stronger each year.


The high rise condo & lofts segment of the Las Vegas real estate market, is a different sector.  Luxury high rises are in demand from the baby boomer generation to the young professionals.


Hotel-Condos such as the Cosmopolitan, MGM City Center's Vdara, Trump Towers are new to Las Vegas real estate.


Make the connection with the Stark Team to sift thru the many luxury Las Vegas real estate opportunities that abound in today's market.





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