Summerlin plans and builds before homes sprout in the desert

When executives presented their vision for Summerlin in March 1988, builders, realtors, and bankers were eager to get involved in the massive build-from-scratch community in the wilderness.

Some people also struggled with the name.

A homebuilder called Summerlin “kind of a tongue cup,” and at a press conference, project officials continued to use the site’s old name and corrected themselves.

Over 30 years later, Summerlin has over 100,000 residents, a network of parks, trails and community centers, as well as a commercial hub with stores, restaurants, an ice rink and minor league baseball. It commands some of the highest house and land prices in southern Nevada and remains one of the top-selling places in the country for home builders.

Kent Lay, president of the Las Vegas division for Woodside Homes, said he has been building homes in Summerlin since 1994 and buyer demand there has historically been higher than in other parts of the valley.

“Summerlin has a lifestyle that none of the others (planned communities) have been able to create,” he said.

But before builders buy land in Summerlin for new housing, developer of Las Vegas’ largest planned community, The Howard Hughes Corp., is spending a lot of time and money preparing chunks of desert for new residents.

Spanning 22,500 acres along the western edge of the valley, Summerlin still has plenty of room for more construction.

At the end of last year, it had 2,864 acres of residential land and 831 acres of commercial land that could still be purchased and an expected sale date of 2039, according to a securities filing.

“Lots of rules”

The management of Hughes Corp. in Las Vegas described Summerlin’s development process in an interview with the Review-Journal. Years before the company started building roads, it was planning the appearance of certain areas, drawing parks, roads, plot sizes and housing offerings, according to Brian Walsh, senior vice president of land sales for Summerlin.

From there, he begins engineering to create the 20-30 acre plots that he ultimately sells to home builders, he said.

According to Walsh, it can cost anywhere from $ 200,000 to $ 250,000 per acre to develop typical residential plots of land.

According to Kevin Orrock, Las Vegas regional president, Hughes Corp. develops its holdings in the desert in a “logical way” so that one area connects to the next.

Nor does he sell land to a willing buyer.

Hughes Corp. monitors the builders’ yard inventory in Summerlin. It floats maybe two or three plots at a time and asks three or four builders to bid, Walsh said, adding that the company also describes the types of homes it wants to see built.

Along the north side of Far Hills Avenue just west of 215 Beltway, builders’ offerings include townhouses priced at around $ 385,000 and single-family homes starting at $ 1.2 million. of dollars.

Designating different types of homes for different plots helps prevent builders from competing head-on, Walsh said.

“They expect that if they come out of the ground with a product, it’s not the same product across the street,” he said.

Design is also “paramount,” including making sure that side-by-side homes don’t have the same paint colors, said Julie Cleaver, senior vice president of business and residential planning for Summerlin.

Home builders “aren’t really happy with me especially at times … but it makes a huge difference in our community and in our neighborhoods when you watch that street scene and things aren’t monotonous,” said Cleaver.

Summerlin also has many homeowner association rules that require people to submit proposed exterior changes to their property to a design review committee.

As stated in the 32-page “Design Guidelines and Standards” package for the Summerlin West Community Association, approval by a design review committee is required for exterior modifications, including landscaping, feature windows, planters, paint color changes, basketball backboards, patio covers and water.

Other rules: Exterior window bars are not allowed; a sign bearing the name of the company that installed your home security system may be placed in the front yard, but it must not be more than 24 inches from the house; and flag poles can only have the flags of the United States or the State of Nevada.

Orrock, the regional president, noted that homeowners associations are not for everyone but the rules are designed to keep “development quality for a long time.”

“There are a lot of rules, but at the end of the day it protects the value of arguably the most important investment most people make, and that is their home,” he said.

The older areas of Summerlin are still beautiful and well maintained, he added.

“I hate to say it, but Vegas is a community that, as neighborhoods get older, tends to deteriorate,” Orrock said. “And I don’t think you can necessarily say that if you live in Summerlin.”

Company changes

Howard Hughes, the famous aviator, businessman and recluse, acquired the land now known as Summerlin – named after his grandmother Jean Amelia Summerlin – in the 1950s. Before its current name was revealed in 1988 the spread was called Husite.

The first residential outpost was Sun City Summerlin. The 55+ community has proven to be a success, and with being on the front lines, Summerlin management has launched an ad campaign to let people know that Summerlin is not strictly for retirees, Orrock remembers.

It quickly became a popular place to live. Summerlin was the nation’s best-selling planned community from 1992 to 1995, missed the title in 1996 by just two home sales, and again led from 1997 to 2003, said Hughes Corp.

He also went through a series of business leaders. In 1996, Hughes’ heirs sold Howard Hughes Corp. to Maryland mall developer Rouse Co. in a $ 520 million deal, according to reports at the time.

Chicago mall operator General Growth Properties acquired Rouse in a $ 12.6 billion deal in 2004 as the real estate bubble swelled. But the economy then collapsed, and in Las Vegas, General Growth halted construction of the open-air mall now known as Downtown Summerlin, leaving a steel skeleton on the east side of 215 Beltway on Sahara Avenue. .

General Growth went bankrupt in 2009, and as part of its exit from bankruptcy in 2010, it separated The Howard Hughes Corp. as a separate company controlling Summerlin and other properties.

Texas-based Hughes Corp. has since developed projects worth hundreds of millions of dollars in Summerlin’s commercial core, bringing together retail stores, office buildings, apartments and baseball.

The company owns the Las Vegas Aviators minor league team and its stadium, the Las Vegas Ballpark, which is across the street from the company’s 106-acre outdoor mall. Neighboring properties include the Golden Knights’ practice rink, the City National Arena.

Summerlin also has over 150 miles of trails, numerous parks and other amenities, including a July 4th Parade that has drawn tens of thousands of participants each year.

Last year, Hughes Corp. sold nearly 127 acres of residential land to Summerlin for an average price of about $ 772,000 an acre, the company reported.

Homebuilders also recorded just over 960 net sales – newly signed contracts minus cancellations – in Summerlin through the first half of 2021, the third highest among US blueprint communities, the consulting firm reported. in RCLCO real estate.

Lay, of Woodside Homes, said even before last year’s low-cost housing craze, his business was generally selling homes faster in Summerlin than in other parts of the Valley.

According to him, Summerlin attracts buyers with his sense of community and his sense of prestige.

“People mean they live in Summerlin,” he said.

Contact Eli Segall at [email protected] or 702-383-0342. To follow @eli_segall on Twitter.

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