Sam Cherry

The Mayor of Hoover Street

Behind every dream-come-true, there is a person who was willing to look like a complete idiot to see it through. Soho Lofts was such a dream, and Sam Cherry was such a person.

Cherry, 33, does not recommend dropping out of school and moving out of the house at 15. Nor can he in good conscience advise earnest young businessmen to leverage themselves to the hilt by their mid-20s. If you’re haunted by the fever dream of creating metropolitan life in a legendarily unfertile urban wasteland, he might tell you that you’d better have the work ethic of a Marine and the nerves of a yogi.

Cherry’s got both. He’s also got debt. But he’s survived a recession that took down many a veteran developer. Soho Lofts stands gleaming and 90 percent occupied at South Fourth Avenue and Hoover Street. Just down the road are the 80-percent-occupied Newport Lofts. Cherry’s responsible for those, too. Every day, people wake up in their downtown condominiums and descend to their downtown lives. If you are a longtime Las Vegan, you know that this is a fanciful vision.

In 2003, when he was 25 years old, Cherry decided it was time to build high-rise condominiums in downtown Las Vegas, and that he was the man to do it. He met with Mayor Oscar Goodman. Goodman also thought it was time for condos downtown. He did not, however, think the kid standing before him in baggy shorts was the man for the job. “He thought I was a maniac,” Cherry recalls.

Score one for the maniacs. Soho was the first step of downtown Las Vegas’ mid-2000s residential revival. It put windows over the streets, eyes behind the windows. It created a built-in clientele for new and struggling and yet-to-be born downtown shops and restaurants. For a moment, an outrageously swift urban renaissance not only seemed possible, but imminent. Rare was the week that passed without news of some developer trying to walk in Cherry’s footsteps.

Then the recession hit downtown, and it hit hard. Skyscrapers remained forever in blueprint. “Manhattanization” joined “world peace” on the ash heap of empty syllables. The past two years have not been kind to dreamers. The credit well has gone chalk-dry. The bank that believed in Cherry when no one else would has gone bankrupt. Cherry has had to set his next vision, for downtown apartments, on hold. He remains afloat, though, paddling more cautiously but still getting somewhere. Downtown, with its history, its established infrastructure and its core of creative, committed boosters, just may be the first part of town to rise up, and Cherry will be there for the rebirth.

In the meantime, he’s occupying himself with the kind of dreams that defy a tight credit market: A 2-year-old son. The retail evolution of Hoover Street. A small grocery store on Soho’s bottom floor. Check the place in the morning: Cherry’s unloading boxes with old friends, creating a neighborhood where once there was only a street grid and scattered hopes. Says he’s never been happier.

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