New life at long-abandoned Las Vegas projects - FOX5 Vegas - KVVU


New life at long-abandoned Las Vegas projects

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Developers intend to transform the shell of the abandoned Manhattan West into the Gramercy. (FOX5) Developers intend to transform the shell of the abandoned Manhattan West into the Gramercy. (FOX5)

It's an unusual and welcome sight in the Las Vegas Valley. Construction workers and heavy equipment have returned to projects that had been abandoned for years.

It's a sure sign the economy is improving, but the hole left by the recession is deep. Many are wondering if these projects will actually be completed or if they will continue to live near hulking eyesores.

Numerous metal behemoths have stood quietly since the economy tanked in 2007, giant developments that once promised to shake up the Las Vegas landscape.

Some of them are showing signs of life.

"Everybody's got to feel right about this. I think that's the biggest indication that it's time for this project. There's a lot of money invested by those who know who this stuff works," said Tom Warden with the Howard Hughes Corporation.

Warden is referring to the Shops at Summerlin, which stalled in late 2007. The Howard Hughes Corporation bought it, redesigned it and now, according to the developer, it is one of the biggest retail centers being built in the county.

The Shops at Summerlin includes 1.5 million square feet of retail and office space, with urban-style housing planned nearby.

"This is the perfect time to get a project of this magnitude started, and I think it's kind of a good signal to the whole Valley at large that things are turning around. The economy is improving," Warden said.

About five miles away and nine stories up, Jay Krigsman shares the same sentiment about what he says will be the luxury penthouse apartments of the Gramercy.

Krigsman works for Krausz Companies, which refers to itself as an opportunistic developer. It decided the site of the planned Manhattan West fit the bill. The previous developer ran out of money in 2007, having finished a lot of work.

The previous developers had even installed custom cabinetry in some apartments and finished several bathrooms.

Krausz Companies bought the project for cents on the dollar.

"The vision is to create a place where people can come and live, work and play that's not on the Strip," Krigsman said.

Still, crews are months from swinging a hammer at the Gramercy, leaving some to wonder if this is another pie-in-the-sky idea from a developer that talks a good game.

"We're a big believer in Las Vegas already. I think of all the economies in the country, Las Vegas, even though it had speed bumps along the way, constantly reinvents itself and it constantly bounces back," Krigsman said.

John Restrepo is a real estate economist who is confident things will be different this time. For one thing, he said, developers and investors are being more cautious about being burdened by another economic downturn.

"Right after the Great Recession, we're still stunned by it and still kind of learning," he said. "I think we've grown up a bit in how we manage our investments, spending and debt – all those things."

Another big difference this time is the fact that the developers of the Gramercy and the Shops at Summerlin have sunk a lot of their own money into the projects, which would make a pullout more painful.

"The [previous] developer didn't do anything wrong. We're just finishing the vision and making it a little bit better, and I think our timing is perfect," Krigsman said.

Despite the optimism, there are plenty of reminders that the resurrection of other high profile commercial projects, such as Fontainebleau, has yet to begin and may never.

Krigsman said the county is fast-tracking his permits and it's hoped the Gramercy will open by summer 2015. The Shops at Summerlin is slated to open in October 2014.

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