Welcome to the New Downtown

Downtown Summerlin is finally ready to open its doors, and you’ll never guess the development’s target audience: You!

Photo courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corporation

Photo courtesy of the Howard Hughes Corporation

Downtown Summerlin: Sounds like an oxymoron, doesn’t it? Downtown means tall office buildings, boutiques, trendy dining and people on sidewalks. Summerlin has single-story houses, big-box retail stores, chain restaurants and cars on four-lane roads.

Then again, maybe Downtown Summerlin isn’t trying to be two opposite things so much as it’s attempting to be … everything. After all, when the much-anticipated development debuts October 9, it will be as a hub of retail and restaurants. But the endgame will be more than 300 acres of shopping, dining, offices and residences—hence the name change a few months ago from Shops at Summerlin to Downtown Summerlin. “People will be able to live right there, work right there,” says Tom Warden, senior vice president of community and government relations for the Howard Hughes Corp., which develops Summerlin. “This is the real deal at a critical mass. … It truly is building a downtown from scratch.”

Indeed, Downtown Summerlin is rising from the dust, with no current residents, historical buildings or obscure zoning to be accommodated. But it’s not a completely blank slate. “This was always designated as the commercial core of Summerlin,” Warden says. “In the earliest master plan, it shows intense commercial-use high density right here.”

So what makes Downtown Summerlin different from downtown Syracuse and downtown Scranton—or Boca Park and Tivoli Village, for that matter? For one, the setting is designed to be a destination in itself: A series of plazas and walkways invite lingering and lounging rather than the usual errands-and-out. A two-level row of shops is topped by a sail-like “roof” for daytime shade and nighttime lighting effects, while a number of restaurants face the “dining arroyo,” a landscaped patio with water/fire features.

While the tenant list is dominated by such familiar brands as Victoria’s Secret and Red Robin, there are several less-expected businesses as well. “The big demand has always been, ‘We want our national brands here, but don’t you dare leave out those local entrepreneurs who have done great things,’” says Andrew Ciarrocchi, senior general manager of Downtown Summerlin. “It’s our job to bring in [local restaurateur] Elizabeth Blau and her Andiron Steak and Sea, or MTO Café—which will do their second restaurant here—but at the same time [also] bring in Macy’s and Dillard’s and Nordstrom Rack.”

There’s even a global component to Downtown Summerlin: It’ll be home to the first stateside outposts for Scandinavian clothing chains Lindbergh and b.young, as well as Australian restaurant franchises Gelato Messina and Ribs and Burgers. “That we could get their first U.S. stores in Downtown Summerlin speaks worlds of their confidence in this project and what they think of what we can do,” Ciarrocchi says.

It’s all intended for a larger audience than just the nearby residents. Downtown Summerlin is working with the Regional Transportation Commission to create a regional transit hub, and the shops and restaurants are designed to flow into the property of the adjacent Red Rock Resort. “[Red Rock guests] will be coming over here, and they’ll take advantage of our people going over there,” Warden says. “It will be very symbiotic relationship.”

Of course, the final goal of Downtown Summerlin is for the people to already be there. “The rest of Downtown Summerlin directly adjacent is [more than] 200 acres, and what you’ll see in there is high-rise and mid-rise residential towers, office towers, mixed-use, street-side retail,” Warden says. The first residential development—Warden insists there “won’t be one single-family detached home”—will be a gated community of 124 luxury units (think on-call masseuse), slated to open in the spring.

So, yes, Downtown Summerlin does indeed want to be all things to all people. A place where a family staying at Red Rock Resort can take the kids to Build-A-Bear and Pieology Pizzeria. Where a couple from central Vegas might come to check out the new Terry Gilliam film at the Regal Cinemas and afterward enjoy a glass of wine at Grape Street Café & Wine Bar. Where an office worker can pick up groceries at Trader Joe’s on the way home and then walk her schnauzer over to the Lazy Dog Restaurant and Bar. “This is, in fact, what has always been planned as the crown jewel of Summerlin,” Warden says. “It’s a project that speaks to the evolution of the entire Southern Nevada community. The Vegas Valley is growing up.”

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