Monday, June 28, 2004 | 11:01 a.m.
An Australian developer is planning a new high-rise residential project along Las Vegas Boulevard that would link a vintage neighborhood with development already in the works.
The project, dubbed Liberty Towers, is planned as 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.
Nic Niccum of JMA Architecture Studios, which is working on Liberty Towers, said the goal is to create a gateway to downtown.
"It won't be the city center, but we're trying to create the clock tower. We will not call this the gateway to downtown. It's going to be the start of creating the gateway," Niccum said. "We're going to show you the gateway later."
He said the developer, Harvard Securities of Australia, plans other buildings along Las Vegas Boulevard, but Niccum declined to discuss those proposals.
Liberty Towers is several blocks south of the Arts District. To the north of the Arts District are the L'Octaine and Soho Lofts retail and residential projects.
"This is all going to link together," Niccum said. "Now we have nodes you can walk to. People from Soho Lofts can take a nice easy stroll to our building, and have a cup of coffee, so there's a destination. And on the way they pass through the Arts District."
Niccum said that he expects to get the city approval necessary to break ground by November, and finish the building within a year and a half of that.
The plans have been submitted to the city, and must be reviewed by the Planning Department and approved by the Planning Commission and City Council before work can begin. The review has begun, and the Planning Commission could take up the issue in July, Deputy Planning Director Margo Wheeler said.
Downtown proponents consider residential development key to generating gravity in the center city, and the Liberty Tower proposal is among a handful of high-rise and mixed-use projects in an area roughly bounded by Interstate 15 to the west, Sahara Avenue to the south, and U.S. 95 to the north.
"Any kind of development north of Sahara is, in my opinion, critical to how the city is going to define itself in this century," Mayor Oscar Goodman said.
The Liberty Tower proposal would be a key to defining downtown, especially once the monorail extends to the city's core in 2007. It would cut across Las Vegas Boulevard at St. Louis, and up Main Street through the Arts District.
Liberty Tower would loom prominently as the monorail approaches the Las Vegas city limits at Sahara.
"We're looking to create an aesthetic for the monorail. If you came down the monorail now you'd see rooftops. The goal now is to go up so you see aesthetically interesting things," said Ben Contine, association president of the Beverly-Green neighborhood, which is next to the proposed Liberty Tower.
He said his neighborhood group wants to make sure that as downtown projects start to sprout, they enhance the values sought by residents -- the landscaping, cafes, pedestrian activity and retail that comes with urbanization.
"We're out of the pipe dream phase and into the reality phase, and we need to make sure the reality is high quality," Contine said.
Contine said "there's no doubt our area needs more innovative residential development that works in the context of being part of the neighborhood, that encourages participation in the neighborhood, that creates less traffic, that's accessible to the monorail, that creates a bikeable community."
Mixed-use projects are a buzzword in the valley as a whole, and areas in the suburban neighborhoods of growth also are using the philosophy. For example, in Green Valley, The District adjacent to the Green Valley Ranch Casino is a cluster of mid-rise buildings with retail on the ground floor and loft-style units above.
Contine said that such projects are "innovative projects, but where they make the most sense is downtown."