Howard Hughes tinkered in a lot things in his lifetime, aided by his canny vision of where opportunities to make an impact lie. One of them was the future of a dusty desert gambling hub known for sweltering, dry summer days sitting in the southern tip of Nevada. In the 1950's the bold entrepreneur bought 25,000 acres of sand and shrub way out in nowhere northwest of the Las Vegas Strip. The only living creatures dwelling there those days were rattlers and scorpions, sometimes challenged for space by roving coyotes. He paid $3 per acre, that's right $3, a bargain price even then.
In the 1980's, after the colorful Hughes had passed away, the company his heirs controlled engaged real estate experts to draw up a development plan for the site and thus Summerlin became a reality. In 1990 the first piece of land was sold to Woodside Homes and in 1991 the first homebuyer booked an appointment with his friendly Las Vegas mortgage broker or banker, closed on a home there and moved in soon thereafter. This year the Summerlin master-planned community celebrates its 20th anniversary.
From there on progress has been sparkling, to put it conservatively. To date about 100,000 new and old Vegas residents have moved to about 40,000 homes built in the higher elevations of western Las Vegas valley. In an attempt to make life a breeze there the master plan has added 150 miles of trails and another 150 parks, 75 multi-cuisined restaurants, 15 shopping centers and a bunch of office parks. The fast growth and controlled variety of it should put a smile on everybody's face living in Summerlin. For most of its existence Summerlin has been the best-selling master-planned community in the nation. The lingering recession has spared no one in the housing industry, as expected, having even slowed the pace down in Summerlin despite very affordable mortgage money and tax incentives.
The size of Summerlin, owned by the Howard Hughes Corp., today is 22,500 acres, of which 9,000 still remains undeveloped. The company estimates it takes over 20 years before the once in-the-Boonies called parcel is completely built out. This could translate roughly to another 80,000 to 90,000 additional homes. Once the economy picks up Summerlin will move briskly ahead to finish what it has started so well and will undoubtedly keep its stellar reputation among master-planned communities not only in Las Vegas, but also nationally.