Thursday, Aug. 5, 2004 | 10:05 a.m.
Former U.S. Sen. Richard Bryan fondly recalls 40 years ago when he and his wife managed the Ramona Apartments at 1905 Fairfield Ave. for Las Vegas pioneer Pete Peccole. What is now Meadows Village was a vibrant, young community in those days.
Then came the urban blight of the 1970s that resulted in the then-rundown, stark area being tagged with unflattering names such as "The Naked City." Cleanup efforts in the past 20 years have made the crime-ridden area lined with Art Deco-style apartments tolerable, but it remains less than desirable, officials say.
But Bryan, who has returned to his law practice, has joined forces with others, including Meadows Village property owner Andrew Fonfa, to try to revitalize the old neighborhood with two 39-story twin towers at a cost of $300 million to $400 million. The towers will serve as the "gateway to the southern end of the city," Bryan said.
Each tower of the Sahara Avenue Condominiums at Sahara and Fairfield avenues, when built out in a period that could take as long as three years, will feature 404 condominium units with the 655-square-foot studios selling for $275,000 and the luxurious penthouses going for an estimated $1 million, said Steve Fink, commercial real estate broker for the project.
It will be the first significant residential development in the area since the 1950s, Bryan said.
"This is one of the great challenges and will create a catalyst for redevelopment of the entire area," Bryan said Wednesday after pitching the idea to the Las Vegas City Council, which approved the special use permit and the site development plan review with 5-0 votes. Councilmen Larry Brown and Gary Reese were absent during the vote.
"This is very exciting," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said of the project to be built by SP Sahara Development Limited Liability Company.
Councilwoman Janet Moncrief, in whose ward the twin towers are slated to be built, said she expects the project will "help Meadows Village unbelievably."
No taxpayer funds will be used to offset any costs of the redevelopment project that will be built on nearly four acres near the Sahara Hotel, the developers said.
The project will include not only medium density and high density residential units but also commercial zoning that will include shops and restaurants at the base of the towers, the developers said.
It is an urban village design that is similar to what is planned for the 61 acres of former railroad property just west of Downtown Las Vegas.
Bryan said that with rising property values, developers today have to get as much use as possible out of a strip of land, even proposing projects that years ago were unthinkable in the Las Vegas market in areas once thought impossible to resurrect.
Fonfa, who long has owned the property upon which the project will be built, said he initially thought of building a hotel-casino on the site, but changed his mind after talking to Goodman and other city officials.
"This is what the city wanted as part of its plan for residential living," he said, noting that he believes his towers will forever change the Las Vegas skyline. "The configuration will be for the project to face down the Strip with fabulous views of the Strip."
Fink said the project is expected to break ground in the first quarter of 2005 and it will take 21 to 23 months to build each tower, with construction on the second tower beginning six months after the first.
Bryan said: "People forget that 40 years ago, Meadows Village was a thriving neighborhood, where many of the Strip workers and showgirls used to live because it was close to where they worked. It can be a thriving area again."
In other items action on new residential projects, the City Council:
Approved a special use permit and site development plan for the Liberty Towers, a $35 million, 21-story building with parking and first-floor cafes, at 1801 Las Vegas Blvd. South, on the southern edge of downtown below the Arts District. It is the first local project by developer, Harvard Securities of Australia, which plans other buildings along Las Vegas Boulevard. Liberty Towers will feature 116 apartments, 18 condominiums and retail on 0.68 of an acre.
Approved a resolution transferring $19.8 million from its private activity bond funds to Meta Housing Corporation of California to construct the Golden Age Senior Apartments, 326 units of low-cost housing, at the Northeast corner of Main Street and Bonanza Road. Meta Housing official Robert Buente said the project is expected to break ground in the second quarter of 2005. Rents will be based on 60 percent of the median income for that area. Also, the City Council directed staff to send the remaining $14.6 million in the fund to the State Housing Division for future use at the city's discretion.