Friday, February 23, 2007

Las Vegas Newest Master Planned Community

The direction of the Las Vegas real estate market has taken a new twist with the opening of Inspirada, Las Vegas newest masterplanned community in the foothills south of Las Vegas. The developer claims that local Las Vegas residents are looking for an old fashioned sense of community and is building homes clustered around town squares with limited auto access. It remains to be seen whether residents really are looking for more interaction with their neighbors, or if developers, paying top dollar for rapidly diminishing land, are trying to spin the fact that they are putting in much higher densities to maintain their profit levels.

'Urbanist village' planned near Henderson air field

People are tiring of row upon row of cookie-cutter homes designed for 1940s suburbia, the developer of the master-planned Inspirada community in Henderson said Thursday.They're starved for interaction with their neighbors and a sense of community, Focus Property Group Chief Executive Officer John Ritter said at the opening of Inspirada's information center.

"We're sick of post-World War II homes," he said. "We fell in love with our cars and fell out of love with our neighbors. The street ends up looking like a line of garages." The 1,940-acre development near Henderson Executive Airport will become a leading example of the "new urbanist village" concept of community design, Ritter told a gathering of business leaders. KB Home is building 5,000 of the estimated 11,000 homes at Inspirada and has 17 models open. These Las Vegas homes should be ready for move-in by September. "When you look at KB's models, it's like nothing you've ever seen in Nevada," Ritter said. "It's pretty stunning. Some of the bankers and investors in this deal came through and their comments were quite amazing. I don't think anything like this has been done in the country, let alone Nevada."

Focus and a consortium of home builders paid $557 million for the acreage at a Bureau of Land Management Auction in 2004. It was passed over in a previous auction because of "inclusionary zoning" requirements from the city of Henderson, which were later removed. Most of KB's homes are single-family detached on smaller lots clustered around a central courtyard, Nevada division President Don DelGiorno said. About 15 percent of the residences will be attached Las Vegas condos and townhomes."We'll move with the market," he said. "If a certain product sells better, we'll react to the market."

Floor plans of Rembrandt City townhomes range from 1,640 square feet to 1,980 square feet. Prices start in the high $200,000s. The Renoir garden-style detached homes are 1,375 square feet to 2,040 square feet, also priced from the high $200,000s.

Ritter, a member of the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Land Institute that advocates so-called "smart growth" development, said Focus had been studying new urbanism projects that had been "springing up" around the country. "I remember the day I went into a meeting with the consortium group and saying, 'Guys, let's do new urbanism in this project.' They said, 'What does that mean?' 'Well, it means higher density.' We had no idea what we were getting into," Ritter said.When he met with Henderson planning officials, Ritter found that they knew more about new urbanism than he did. They had been looking for an opportunity to do it, he said."It's been painful at times, kind of like herding cats, but ultimately, it's been successful," he said.

Henderson Mayor Jim Gibson said Inspirada captures the "small-town notion" valued by Henderson residents, even as it has grown to be Nevada's second-largest city."It really was an exercise for all of us because it was so huge and complicated, there wasn't anyone it didn't touch," Gibson said. "It was an enormous undertaking for the city."Ritter said the "last piece of the puzzle" is a 300-acre town center with mixed uses such as lifestyle entertainment, retail, restaurants and a boutique casino."I think, over time, you'll see the vision realized. Ultimately, this will be a role model in this country for the new urbanist community," he said.The community, east of Interstate 15 off St. Rose Parkway, will eventually be home to 26,000 residents with 300 acres of recreational land and 20 miles of trails. Toll Bros. has opened a sales center at the community. Other builders include Woodside, Kimball Hill, Meritage and Beazer.