Las Vegas Sun

May 23, 2015

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Downtown Project snapping up apartment building, other parcels

Data from Clark County Assessor's Office; map by Kyle B. Hansen; updated 4/10/13

A group purchasing property all over downtown is close to finalizing a deal for the 360-unit Mayan Plaza apartment building on Alta Drive, next to the new Metro Police headquarters.

Sources say the group, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, has targeted the 15.4-acre parcel at 1700 Alta Drive because it needs housing downtown for some of Zappos’ 1,300 employees who will be working there this fall.

County records show the 24-year-old property sold for $18.8 million in 2003 to Greenlawn Property LLC, a California-based company.

In September and October, Zappos will be moving its headquarters from Henderson into the former City Hall in downtown Las Vegas. Zappos has spent more than a year renovating the building.

For company employees who might want to live close to work, however, downtown residential housing and apartments are scarce. Many Zappos employees live in Henderson or Summerlin, away from the city center.

The Downtown Project, which includes Hsieh, is investing some $350 million into education, entertainment, real estate, and small and tech businesses downtown. Some $200 million of that amount is going into real estate.

A year ago, Downtown Project considered creating residential housing itself; New York designers sketched plans and ideas for functional, small units. Hsieh said last weekend that idea was still being considered.

The Mayan Plaza currently advertises a “$275 move-in special” and one month of free rent with a 13-month lease. One bedrooms go for $650 and two bedrooms from $750 per month.

State records show the downtown investment group formed a limited liability company called “1700 Alta LLC” last October, presumably to purchase the property.

Most of the group’s downtown property acquisitions followed formation of an LLC that is given the same name as the targeted property’s address.

Aside from the Mayan Plaza property, the Sun found four additional parcel purchases recorded as sold to the downtown group, plus another five whose addressed became the name of four new LLCs whose members include Hsieh and others.

The four purchased properties are:

• 221 and 230 Eighth St. This double-parcel property includes a large complex with multiple units on 1.29 acres. Purchase price: $6.7 million.

• 113 Fourth St., .15 acres, $1.1 million.

• 1322 Fremont St., .46 acres, $1.9 million (includes building).

• 701 Bridger Ave., .89 acres, $10 million, includes building and will be the future home of a medical clinic.

The five targeted properties:

• 828 Commerce Ave., a large building and parking lot in the Arts District, .47 acres.

• 117 Fourth St., .16 acres, no recorded sale.

• 302 Carson Ave., .48 acres.

• 915 Carson Ave., .19 acre.

• 800 Fremont St., .16 acres, (future home of a dog park).

The new parcel purchases surprised some people downtown, especially after Andrew Donner, in charge of purchasing real estate for the downtown partnership, announced in December that it had “the critical pieces that we need.”

The hallmark of Hsieh’s Downtown Project has been an unprecedented openness as it sells itself as being dedicated to creating and improving community downtown.

When Donner made his comment about having all the critical pieces, downtown partners had purchased just $45 million of parcels. Since then, recorded property sales to the group, including the four listed here, total just under $110 million.

The number of parcels now purchased, including the handful targeted, is close to 90, which totals about 50 acres.

Hsieh said the ongoing purchases don’t signal a change in Downtown Project’s vision for downtown. However, he said, “if a good deal comes up, then we’ll take a look at it.”

He said Donner’s company, Resort Gaming Group, has been the project’s real estate partner and is the “decision maker in each deal.”

“Their directive has been to use their best judgment and to be open-minded whenever an opportunity comes up,” he said.

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