Wednesday, Dec. 24, 2003 | 11:07 a.m.
Two developers are working on plans for the first high-rise luxury residences in downtown Las Vegas.
Partners Sam Cherry and Harris Rittoff are working on plans for a high-rise that will feature 112 loft-style homes at the southwest corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Hoover Avenue. They expect to break ground on their SoHo Lofts project in May.
While developers have been paying more attention to downtown Las Vegas in recent months, much of the housing built has been affordable for-rent, multi-housing developments.
Cherry said he's taking the risk to build market-rate housing because he and his partner believe in downtown.
"It has all the makings like downtown Chicago or San Diego," Cherry said. "It's going to turn into that."
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has long been pushing and promoting the idea of downtown redevelopment, saying residential housing is the key to revitalization.
Goodman is out of town this week, but Spokeswoman Elaine Sanchez said the mayor knows about the SoHo Lofts and is encouraged by the new project.
"The mayor is behind this project 100 percent he believes that loft living is an important component to creating a downtown where people can work and live," Sanchez said.
Cherry said they would not be seeking redevelopment monies or other incentives for the project.
Cherry already has the special-use permits for the site, and the project's plans were approved by the planning commission Dec. 18. Cherry and Rittoff will go before city council on Jan. 21 to get final approval.
Brian Gordon, principal of Applied Analysis, said there has been an increase in the number of high-rise living projects being announced or on the drawing boards throughout the Las Vegas Valley in the last three to six months.
"With the perception of a land-supply issue, developers are moving more toward the center of the valley and looking to go vertical and construct high-rise developments," he said. "We've seen a handful of announcements of condo high-rise developments, with the expectation that they will be competing with single-family homes at some time."
Gordon said he and his staff have counted 5,300 high-rise units that are either under construction or on the drawing boards, including luxury high-rises Park Towers and Turnberry. While those projects are in and around central Las Vegas, none are in what many consider downtown Las Vegas.
"It will be interesting to see if all these units get absorbed," he said.
Cherry and Rittoff are proposing SoHo Lofts as the first for-sale luxury units in an area long neglected by developers of market-rate housing.
Hoping to evoke images from the popular HBO television show Sex and the City, where TV characters live in lofts and embody the New York urban lifestyle, Cherry and Rittoff are banking on Las Vegas' hip factor.
While the SoHo Lofts, named for the trendy New York neighborhood south of Houston Street in Manhattan, have not been formally announced, Cherry said he has received an "unbelievable" amount of interest.
"People want to live on Las Vegas Boulevard," he said.
The 244-foot-high building will have an address of 900 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The development actually fronts Hoover and is at 414 Hoover. (The height is comparable to Sunset Station in Henderson, which is about 250 feet tall.)
Cherry and Rittoff will close escrow on the .69 acres Jan. 4. The purchase price was not disclosed, but the entire project is expected to cost between $40 and $45 million, Cherry said.
Floor plans are still being finalized but are expected to range in size from 1,300 square feet to 1,600 square feet. Preliminary plans by JMA Architecture Studios show nine 4,100-square-foot to 4,200-square-foot lofts. A 24-hour doorman, along with a spa and fitness center is also on the drawing boards for the development.
Prices for the units are expected to begin at $300,000 to more than $1.5 million.
Cherry and Rittoff plan for commercial and parking on the ground floor, followed by four levels of parking garage space and another 10 stories of lofts.
The pair, which have developed for-rent high-rise developments in Chicago and developed the Adobe Ranch Apartments and Adobe Plaza commercial center in Henderson, plan to break ground in May at the now-vacant site.
Gordon, with Applied Analysis, said whether or not SoHo Lofts, or other future high-rise for-sale condominiums and lofts succeed in downtown Las Vegas depends on a number of factors.
"First, is the location a desirable place to live, does it have good accessibility, are there amenities in the immediate area," he said. "The second is pricing."
Gordon said many condo or loft projects would do well to target singles or married-without-children professionals who want to live near work and in downtown. He said such developments also attract people looking for second or third homes.
"For somebody to buy a 1,600-square-foot (single-family) home for $200,00 or $225,000 or even $250,000, but they could pay slightly more and have high-rise living with views and a better location to employment and other services, it might be worth it," Gordon said.
It will take some time for the area to create a synergy for downtown, luxury high-rise living, he said.
"There are some challenges to that location, but if it can compete on pricing and other redevelopment in the downtown area occurs, there may be interest for that type of project," Gordon said.
Cherry said despite the perceived challenges, he's in it for the long hall.
"Some people call me a pioneer, other call me wacky," he said. "Downtown is just in the early stages, but we believe in it because we've seen it happening in other places and it's happening here."