The Last of the Worst?

Analysts are still cautious with their words—they’ve been burned before—but Las Vegas’ commercial real estate market seems to be heating up. Recently, one of the largest office building sales in Las Vegas history saw Fashion Show mall owner General Growth Properties unload 32 office buildings to an out-of-state partnership. Read the last part of that sentence again: Out-of-state investors wanted, they really wanted, a large amount of sparsely occupied Las Vegas office space.

And they’re not alone.

The 1.1 million-square-foot sale, of which only about 50 percent is leased, comes amid other promising news. Construction of the Shoppes at Summerlin Centre—the scaffolding next to Red Rock Resort that became a recession landmark—will resume in 2013. Henderson’s Vantage Lofts—another monument to the crash—will restart construction any day now. Copper Pointe, a nearly completed 75,000-square-foot office complex in the southwest, was recently purchased and resuscitated, and Blue Diamond Marketplace, a small retail center in the southwest with only about 62 percent occupancy, recently changed hands.

“There is a general sense by investors from outside the market that the worst may be in the rearview mirror,” says Brian Gordon, a principal with research firm Applied Analysis.

More transactions are needed to get any sense of a real long-term trend. With office vacancy still topping 25 percent and retail vacancy above 10 percent, it looks like the Valley’s commercial real estate market will need plenty more of this “outsider” confidence, along with solid leasing activity to complement it.

“It appears that the [commercial] sector is in the trough of the cycle,” Gordon says. “The real question remains: How long will the market tread water before making any notable positive improvements?”

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