Experts Say Downtown Needs More Housing

June 15, 2018

Live. Work. Play.

That’s been the motto for the redevelopment of downtown Las Vegas that has had to deal with a reputation of hookers, drug addicts and the homeless hanging around street corners.

The reputation has started to change over the past 15 years or so with hundreds of millions of dollars in new development. It was aided last decade by high-rises, such as Newport Lofts, Soho Lofts and the former Streamline Towers, which is now The Ogden.

Over the last five years there’s been new restaurants and bars and the construction of The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and even a new City Hall.

There’s definitely interest in downtown housing. The city of Las Vegas hosted a residential fair in April that brought out developers and prospective buyers and renters who want to live downtown.

One of those who participated in the symposium was Uri Vaknin, a partner at KRE Capital, which in 2013 as part of a partnership acquired a portfolio of downtown condominiums that includes The Ogden and Juhl. Both have since had millions of dollars in upgrades to the buildings and individual units, which helped turn many rentals into for-sale units, he said.

“The housing that’s being built right now is all apartments,” Vaknin said. “The reason is the price per square foot a developer can get has increased significantly in the past few years. When The Ogden and Juhl were renovating, they were getting the highest price per square foot in rent that downtown had seen.

Right now, for someone who wants to build a condo like The Ogden and Juhl, those numbers don’t yet work on what you can charge for what it costs to build. But there will be an inflection point in the next year or two when it will start to make sense.”

Vaknin said The Ogden, for example, was selling in the high $200s per square foot and reached a high of $368 per square foot.

There’s a lot of demand in living downtown from empty-nesters to recent college graduates “but historically we haven’t had enough housing product for people to live downtown, but that is beginning to change,” Vaknin said.

There needs to entry-market, mid-market and more luxury housing, he said.

“You need all three and you need for-sale and rentals,” Vaknin said. “Without for-sale, downtown, will never fully thrive and be successful. You need people to have ownership in downtown and people be invested in downtown.”

What will happen first is smaller projects, which is a healthier approach, Vaknin said. Downtown needs 10-unit developments, 30-unit development, 100-unit developments and then the 300-unit developments, such as Juhl and The Ogden. That diversity is important, he said.

“They are waiting to see how the new developments at Symphony Park are going to do and Fremont and 9th, Vaknin said. “Once they open and people see how successful they are, I think we will definitely see developers come to the table and build again.”

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