Wednesday, November 1

Changing Las Vegas

The Stardust Hotel and Casino, which has been in business since 1958, will close today. It will be torn down to make way for a $4 billion casino resort center called Echelon Place. It's one of many changes that have been sweeping southern Nevada for decades, nothing new for a city that preserves few historic properties, preferring to erase the past to make way for progress.

The less reported but perhaps equally compelling prospects can be seen in the community. In 1994, I wrote the first cover story for Las Vegas Magazine, which predicted many of the residential development changes that southern Nevadans are now seeing come to fruition.

At the time, then vice president in charge of market analysis for PriMerit, Patrick Egger, forecasted steady growth until the Las Vegas metropolitan area reached a population of 1.8 million, when increased land costs, interest rates, taxes, infrastructure, and cost of construction would dampen the market. Currently, Clark County is projected to have 1.9 million people (2 million by Sept. of next year) and, as predicted, while growth continues, it has slowed.

Eggers wasn't the only one to make reasonably accurate predictions. Lot shrinkage, Z lots (angled lots), 3-story homes, townhomes, condos, and mini master plans (as opposed to the major developments such as Summerlin and Green Valley, which broke ground in the 1990's) were all discussed in that article. And all of them have become common among newer developments in Las Vegas, leaving some people to wonder what might be next.

Perhaps because Copywrite, Ink. works with so many companies in diverse industries (in market and out of market), we often see a mixed bag of snapshots for the future of southern Nevada. While not all of it is as good as some people like to think, there are some promising prospects for this once tony dusty tourist town. Some of them aren't even found in the valley.

On Monday, I was in Kingman, Arizona, working with one of our agency clients and a home developer. In the future, it is very possible Kingman, much like Pahrump to the west and Mesquite to the north, will eventually be considered an acceptable commute community for the Las Vegas metropolitan area. Perhaps even more so with the growing number of private pilots cutting commute times from 2-3 hours to 20-30 minutes, which mirrors a forecast report on aviation's role in the economic development of small communities that we did for Carter Burgess just five years ago.

If commute communities (with aviation support or not) take hold in the next decade, Las Vegas could very well shrug off its largest, though seldom talked about, disadvantage. It is an island (surrounded by desert instead of water) with limited resources. Commute communities could begin to ease the burden of infrastructure and land scarcity. If not, then growth challenges will simply become more severe (education, traffic, water, crime), tax burdens like those imposed in 2003 will likely increase (they've already dampened what was once a very positive economic outlook), and the quality of life will not improve as investors continue to dismiss cultural assets in favor of other ventures (cultural assets are usually driven by neighboring cities).

All this might all seem off topic from communication, but as a company that has operated in the area for 15 years, I thought it was fitting to consider the future of Las Vegas as another chapter closes with the doors of the Stardust.


Rich on 12/29/06, 4:40 PM said...

Hey Patrick,

Sorry for the belated reply. I missed it somehow, and was only drawn back today because someone was searching for the Kingman commutes. Of course I remember your assessment and am still amazed that you were spot on.

Happy New Year to you!



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