Inspirada, the region's newest master planned community, is taking shape five months after its sales center opened, and Focus Property Group is slowly unveiling its plans to develop a dense 300-acre mixed-use area at the heart of the project.
The Henderson development got a boost recently when the suburb's City Council approved increasing density for Inspirada's Town Center from 3,000 to 5,000 units.
The change will bring the total number of units in the nearly 2,000-acre development to 13,500.
Inspirada had the bad luck of opening in the middle of a housing slowdown that has many buyers on the sidelines because of problems with affordability, inability to sell existing homes, inability to get financing and assumptions that prices will fall further.
The new community is being watched closely by the marketplace because it represents the Las Vegas Valley's entry in the hottest concept in the home-building industry - new urbanism. There are no gated communities or walls but instead homes are placed in dense, pedestrian-friendly neighborhoods interconnected with narrow streets, village squares, parks and trails.
Although plans haven't been finalized, the Town Center will be developed with shops, services, entertainment, office space and various home styles that could include a few single-family detached homes, town homes, condominiums and apartments.
John Ritter, chairman of Focus Property Group, said construction is underway on infrastructure for Town Center and development could start in 18 months. It could open in two years.
Focus, the master developer, owns the rights to the commercial development, a casino and mixed-use areas of the project, Ritter said.
KB Home, which owns 48 percent of the land in Inspirada, Toll Brothers and Kimball Hill own the residential areas of Town Center, Ritter said.
The Town Center will be dense product that could range from anything from town homes up to mid-rise and a couple of high-rise sites, Ritter said.
Focus is close to completing a transaction with a multifamily developer to sell a mid-rise site, Ritter said. That site could be developed for condos that will be leased or sold. Any mid-rise development is expected to be about 32-units per acre and have about four to five stories.
"We can't announce a deal yet because it's not finalized," Ritter said. "It's a national developer of this mid-rise product."
KB and Focus own the only two high-rise sites, but (KB Home) hasn't decided whether it will develop or sell the site, Ritter said.
The two high-rise sites of 5 acres each allow a height of 200 feet, which should be slightly less than 20 stories, Ritter said.
Ritter said the Town Center could have anywhere between 300,000 and 600,000 square feet of retail. The Town Center may also include office space, possibly above retail. Focus also has city approval for a 153,000-square-foot casino with up to 1,000 hotel rooms.
The retail will be a mixture of daily needs such as a grocery store and other uses that will serve not only Inspirada but the neighboring Anthem development, Ritter said. For residents who live nearby, they can walk from their home, condo or apartment to a coffee shop and restaurant, Ritter said.
"It is going to be like The District on steroids," said Ritter who envisions a Greenwich Village-type feel to the development. "I want it to be a place where somebody would say I want to go there and spend a few hours or a half a day. They can get something to eat, go to the park, go to the casino and do some shopping."
The increase in density helped generate the rooftops to make the retail and development pencil out. There won't be any regional retail.
"There is not going to be a Home Depot, a Target or a Sam's Club," Ritter said. "It's more for daily stuff like a dry cleaner, grocery store, restaurant, coffee shops and lifestyle retail to buy clothes."
Models have already been built in the first of seven villages in Inspirada, which includes KB Home, Toll Brothers and Meritage Homes. KB homes are expected to be completed by the fall.
KB said it's sold about 60 homes in Inspirada since the end of March with the town homes and garden homes, both of which sell for less than $260,000, doing the best of any of its products.
"We would like it to be a little bit faster but given the market conditions, it is outselling anything in Inspirada, said Jim Widner, regional general manager of KB Home.
Toll Brothers recently opened four of the five models it's selling and has made 17 sales through the end of last week, said group president Gary Mayo. He said everyone had different expectation of sales two years ago when the market was hot, but he said the sales at Inspirada are in line what's happening elsewhere in the market, not any better or worse. The sales, however, are picking up, he said.
"I think what's going on is the market purely driven by a lack of consumer confidence," Mayo said.
Construction has started on the second village. It will include KB, Kimball Hill and Woodside, Ritter said.
Brian Wargo covers real estate and development for In Business Las Vegas and its sister publication, the Las Vegas Sun. He can be reached at (702) 259-4011 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
full article may be found at http://www.inbusinesslasvegas.com/2007/07/27/feature2.html