Monday, March 1, 2010

Lake Las Vegas: Elusive Mirage or Delusional FAIL?

Today's Sun has a blistering story on the disasters now plaguing the once grand and luxurious Lake Las Vegas. It's hard to imagine that anyone was imagining this for the synthetic "lakeside village".

I guess one can find a little "dark humor" in the end of the video when they flashed this disclaimer:


Please remember that some of the concepts described in this show are, at this stage, just that: ideas and possibilities that will be tested and explored as the vision for Lake Las Vegas Resort continues to evolve.

I have a feeling Ron Boeddeker and California-based Transcontinental Corporation did not consider foreclosure (even of their development, and only then for Atalon Group, the company that took over in 2007, to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in 2008!), an abandoned hotel, a shuttered casino, three closed golf courses, and a nearly empty shopping center as great "ideas and possibilities"... But nonetheless, that's what testing everyone in Lake Las Vegas today.

Marianne Freeman, who owns Tesoro, a home furnishings and accessories store, blames the slowdown in the village on the bankruptcy buzz.

“When the news of the bankruptcy information hit last year, the perception by the local clients was that Lake Las Vegas is closed,” she said. “People stopped coming out.”

Some residents shrug off the depressing scene.

“I don’t think what’s going on in our community is any different from what is going on in the rest of Las Vegas,” SouthShore Homeowners Association President Vicki Hafen Scott said.

Her custom-home neighborhood is one of 19 in Lake Las Vegas, where home prices range from $365,000 to $3.3 million, according to SalesTraq.

During 2005-06, 10 custom homes were selling a month, SalesTraq President Larry Murphy said.

In 2009, custom-home sales slowed to fewer than one a month.

Home Builders Research President Dennis Smith said the difference between Lake Las Vegas and Summerlin, whose developer is also in bankruptcy, is Summerlin’s varied offerings.

“Historically, Lake Las Vegas has targeted one small segment of the spectrum and that is your luxury buyer or investor. When the market went bad and you don’t have that diversity, it’s going to affect you more,” Smith said.

So what's to blame for Lake Las Vegas' many troubles today? Is it simply the bad economy, or was it a bad plan from the get-go? Are all the naysayers who told Ron Boeddeker in the 1980s that his dream of a grand lake in the middle of an uninhabited desert proving to be postmodern Cassandras?

Or should we just pay more attention to my favorite philosopher... LADY GAGA!!!!

OK, so I use whatever excuse I can to slip one of her awesomely fabulous vids in my diaries. But really, are we plagued by the monster again? You know, the monster of unsustainable exurban sprawl and overall environmental waste. Now yes, real efforts are being made to make Southern Nevada a more sustainable place to live, work, and play...

But how the hell does a synthetic lake in the middle of an otherwise uninhabited stretch of desert fit into the "sustainable development, smart growth" equation? Lake Las Vegas stakeholders, including the City of Henderson and SNWA, really need to think about real, workable answers to this tough question.

And hey, since we're talking about sustainability, what about the economic sustainability of this place. The Vegas Gang discussed the (lack of) tourist appeal in staying in a remote "village" some 17 miles away from the endless party on The Strip, and Steve Friess has chronicled the hot mess of this place for some time. And when one thinks about it, it just becomes even more difficult to understand: What's the appeal to tourists coming to Las Vegas? Why would they fly into Las Vegas just to get away from Las Vegas?

Going back to Dennis Smith's comments, it's really difficult for me to see a way out for Lake Las Vegas since it mostly appeals to uber-high-end vacationers and part-time "residents". And unless they're really attracted to that lake, they can already either find comfortable suburban luxury in the more convenient gated communities of Red Rock Country Club and MacDonald Highlands, or make the ultimate "status statement" by buying one of the (bargain priced!) penthouse condos on or near The Strip at CityCenter or one of the Turnberry communities.

So what is the future of Lake Las Vegas? Honestly, I keep trying to find an answer myself. All I know right now is that residents and shop owners there have some tough questions to consider, and our government and local developers will have to think long and hard on how to avoid any more environmental and economic catastrophes of this proportion.


  1. Friends in Vegas drove me out to Lake Las Vegas the year MonteLago Village opened. It looked beautiful, but I wondered who would want to be 17 miles away from the Strip. The original developers once talked about it being another Palm Springs with peaceful resorts and golf. That's not Las Vegas. Even if people don't stray far from their Strip hotels, there's something about the synergy on the Strip that's lacking at Lake Las Vegas. Plus, I found the industrial area (foundry?) right outside the entrance to be a detraction.
    Las Vegas would have been better off it had never heard of the Bass Brothers and Transcontinental Corp.

  2. My (least) favourite Vegas environmental tragedy is this mountain in the back of McDonald, which some developer decided to simply lop the top off of without another thought and re-layer it for elevated housing with a view.

    Of course, the economy happened, and so now what you have is a ruined mountainside for the houses nearby and nearly a total loss. I flew over it while getting in line for the McCarran landing patterns and it damn near sapped all my excitement of returning to Vegas (since it's a pretty good symbol of what I like least in this town.) I was enjoying looking at Henderson from above, getting a good look at the TV/radio sticks, then looking down and seeing empty housing plots with streets to nowhere on a destroyed hillside. Whadda view.

  3. Mike, I forgot about that tiered mountain development. You mean it's still sitting there like some abandoned strip mine? Sad. I remember seeing earth moving equipment destroying the mountain to create the most excessive neighborhood in greater Las Vegas, but that was before the crash. I Googled it but can't find it. I believe the creator was a billionaire Asian or Asian American who should never have been given the OK to proceed.
    The only bright spot of Lake Las Vegas when I flew to Vegas from Detroit was seeing it off to the right of the plane on approach and knowing we would soon be skimming Palm Mortuary and then on to the runway at McCarran.

  4. 1051: Yeah, that tiered development is still sitting there, though there's now paved roads to absolutely nowhere running around the hillside It's depressing.

    My last flight into McCarran, I got a grand tour as we flew in from the west over the half-finished southwest, over Henderson, past the TV sticks and this tragedy, then swung around allowing a view of Lake Las Vegas and the Dam before getting into alignment with McCarran and coming back over the east side of town again.

  5. Thanks for you and your blog. It's really worth reading for. Hope Lake Las Vegas would still be as beautiful as it is. More power to you.

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