It's easy to count out the fingers of one hand when you think of how many times Union Park has been in and out of the news over the past decade. It's a 61-acre parcel of land the city of Las Vegas owns west of downtown. City Hall has worked for years to find a reliable developer who can successfully complete its intended vision there but for one reason or another the plans always fell through. Frustration was understandably setting in.
Optimism, however, is rising again. It comes on the heels of a major strategic change on how to approach the entire project. The concept of one developer handling it all was scrapped and the site was broken into several pieces, each now having its own designated developer. It seems to have made the difference that at least for now is pushing the master plan forward.
The Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, designed by Frank Gehry, is already under construction in the area's southwest corner. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is considered the anchor for the site and its recent fund-raising efforts have been successful enough to allow planners to talk about groundbreaking late next year.
There are more good news. At least three other developers are to present their plans to the city in the first quarter of next year. The World Jewelry Center envisions a 50-story tower there that would house everyone involved in the business, from designers to manufacturers. Charlie Palmer, the celebrated chef, and his group are ready to build a 400-room boutique hotel on the site and place a fine dining restaurant bearing his name on the top floor. Access Medical is also coming in to spread out their blueprints on the table for a 400-room business hotel, a medical office building and a surgical center.
The site wouldn't be complete without a residential component. Newland Communities will fill that role by building up 3,200 units there. Design options range from street-level brownstones and mid-rise condos to apartments and high-rise condominiums, with the neighborhood being supported by life's everyday conveniences.
This time around Union Park just might come off the blocks for good. All the planned projects may not happen as planned, yet the current positive momentum seems to carry it over the initial hurdle or two and when other developers and commercial mortgage lenders see that it's a viable location, they are likely to join in.