Henderson’s Revival

Lost in the hoopla surrounding Downtown Summerlin’s debut, Nevada’s second-largest city is enjoying a nice, quiet resurgence

When built out, the $1.2 billion Union Village complex is expected to bring as many as 17,000 jobs to Henderson.

When built out, the $1.2 billion Union Village complex is expected to bring as many as 17,000 jobs to Henderson.

With the recent opening of Downtown Summerlin, another recessionary skeleton has regrown its skin. The west-side shopping, dining and entertainment district has generated plenty of buzz, and throughout its build-out the chorus from analysts has been all about how the site finally brings much-needed retail components to the area.

But as many are breathing a deep sigh of relief for those retail-neglected Summerlin residents, Henderson is experiencing a renaissance of its own, albeit on a much quieter scale.

For starters, Valley Health System last month finally put shovels to dirt on a 142-bed acute-care hospital, giving life to the once left-for-dead Union Village project. There were other happy-news nuggets surrounding that groundbreaking, too: Las Vegas Athletic Clubs purchased 10 acres on the Union Village site to develop a facility, and another agreement is in the works for a 350-unit townhome complex that should offer plenty of senior resident amenities.

The ambitious $1.2 billion Union Village development is expected to take about a decade to fully build out, bring as many as 17,000 jobs to the area and provide billions of dollars in property-tax revenue for Henderson. This is welcome news for a city that’s trimmed $127 million from its budget in the past six years (according to Mayor Andy Hafen’s State of the City address in February) and yet still is searching for answers to a $19 million budget shortfall.

Union Village’s groundbreaking comes at a time when other areas of Henderson are also showing signs of post-recessionary life.

The Inspirada master-planned community is building out at a robust clip. Residential construction is also brewing around Horizon Ridge Parkway and Gibson Road, highlighted by the recently completed Vantage Lofts. After years of sitting half-built, Vantage required about $15 million to finish and switched from selling to leasing its units. Within a mile radius of Vantage are no fewer than five other new-home developments.

Throw in new businesses such as the long-anticipated Cowabunga Bay Water Park (which opened this past summer near Union Village) and Life Time Athletic (a 170,000-square-foot fitness complex that debuts next week just west of Green Valley Ranch Resort, adding 300 jobs), and Henderson is indeed on a roll.

Through September, the city’s building permit count hit 9,730, about 8 percent higher than last year. Perhaps more importantly, says city spokesman Keith Paul, is the climb in permit revenue. In 2008, $20.4 million came into Henderson through permit fees. At the recession’s nadir, that number plummeted to $5.3 million. The last fiscal year saw $8.2 million. “We’re still obviously below the peak, but it’s moving upward again,” Paul says.

Stephen Brown, economist and director of UNLV’s Center for Business and Economic Research, sees parallels between Henderson’s rise and Summerlin. His observation is a bit simplistic but accurate: More affluent areas are faring better than other parts of the city.

Brown says Union Village is unique for its integration of a hospital, residential development, specialty retail space and other health care amenities. Its goal of catering to aging baby boomers with spending power is something other communities around the nation are also attempting—although Brown is hesitant to predict Union Village will be a smashing success from the start. “Because the development is a new concept, it remains to be seen how well it will do,” Brown says. “The project may require tweaking to become successful.”

Union Village’s groundbreaking and other key construction projects are indeed positives for Nevada’s second-largest city—even if those projects aren’t generating the same kind of publicity as Downtown Summerlin. Maybe redefining Downtown Henderson, complete with a splashy and aggressive PR campaign, will do the trick.

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