Drawn to Chinatown, L.V. developer skips suburbs for latest apartment project

A view of vacant land, formerly industrial property, near Spring Mountain Road and Valley View Boulevard on Monday, Jan. 25, 2016. Fore Property Co. has purchased 6.5 acres near Chinatown for a new apartment development.

Las Vegas developers are flooding the suburbs with apartment complexes, and largely avoiding the kind of site where Jonathan Fore is plotting his latest project.

His vacant Chinatown-area property is in an urban neighborhood, right near auto-body shops, the Pussycats adult club and a sheet-metal business that welds, shears and sandblasts.

But it’s also near a string of eatery-packed retail centers, Interstate 15 and the Strip, and is poised to offer a buffet of amenities including a poolside DJ booth, a rooftop deck and a massage room.

Fore Property Buys Land Near Chinatown

An artist's illustration for an apartment complex planned for Spring Mountain Road near the Chinatown Mall. Fore Property Co. has purchased 6.5 acres for the development. Launch slideshow »

Amid a national apartment boom, developers are building rental properties around the valley, often packing them with goodies and charging tenants top-dollar. Fore is taking the same approach, but unlike most investors in town, he’s betting renters will flock to Las Vegas’ inner core, not just the outer rings.

Fore, managing partner of Las Vegas-based Fore Property Co., plans to break ground May 1 on his 295-unit complex near the northeast corner of Spring Mountain Road and Valley View Boulevard, a mile west of the Strip. He expects to finish by year-end 2017.

His 6.5-acre property — formerly home to vandalized industrial buildings — is slated to include 9,000 square feet of commercial space, as well as two swimming pools, workout rooms, granite and quartz countertops, keyless-entry doors and common-area WiFi.

The goal, he said, is to offer a luxury, resort-style complex and lure young professionals who both work and hang out on the Strip.

He figures the proximity to the casino corridor and to Chinatown’s many Asian restaurants, as well as the project’s on-site amenities, will persuade prospective tenants to overlook the unusual neighbors.

Fore also believes his project could be a “catalyst” for other redevelopment nearby.

“I view it as a blank canvas,” he said.

On average, the apartments will be 860 square feet and charge $1.60 per square foot, he said, or about $1,375 per month. Apartment-rental rates have been climbing in Las Vegas, but the typical unit is much cheaper than Fore's. According to brokerage firm Colliers International, the average monthly rental rate in Southern Nevada as of mid-2015 was $906.

Clark County commissioners approved project plans in September, and Fore closed his $6.5 million purchase of the site in December.

The seller was Los Angeles investment firm Colony Capital, which acquired the property through foreclosure in 2011 after boom-era plans to develop high-rises fell through.

Fore has developed nine apartment complexes in the Las Vegas area and built “infill” rental properties, such as his Chinatown project, in other cities, including Denver and Portland, Ore. But this is his first in Las Vegas and, apparently, one of only a few overall that are poised to be built anytime soon.

“There haven’t been very many done,” he said.

One other project, at Fremont and Ninth streets downtown, calls for 231 units and 15,000 square feet of ground-floor retail. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s Downtown Project is developing the five-story complex with the Wolff Co., of Arizona.

They aim to start construction in the next few weeks, Wolff recently announced.

It's typically cheaper and easier to build in the valley's suburbs. And even though restaurants, bars and retailers have brought new life to Las Vegas' once-hollowed-out downtown, housing developers and residents aren't flooding urban areas here, as they are in other cities.

Still, Chinatown is a “vibrant area,” and there is no other housing in the immediate area, said Rick Hildreth of Land Advisors Organization, who brokered the sale to Fore.

Moreover, the project gives renters another option, Hildreth noted, as apartment developers mostly are building along the 215 Beltway in the southwest valley and Henderson.

“Everybody else is out in the suburbs,” he said.

Fore’s property used to have a cluster of aging, “crappy” industrial buildings that were magnets for squatters, according to Hildreth. Vagrants would break in, steal copper and camp out. Colony tore the buildings down in 2013, he said.

But, as with many other properties in Las Vegas, would-be developers had big plans for the site during the go-go years, county records show.

By early 2005, investors were planning to build an 11-story, 263-room timeshare-hotel-condo tower, with a nightclub, a restaurant, a six-story parking garage and about 19,850 square feet of retail.

By summer 2005, they were planning a 24-story, 689-room hotel-condo tower with a 16,000-square-foot top-floor nightclub and a seven-story parking garage.

By summer 2006, they were planning an even bigger, Asian-themed property with two towers — one 24 stories, the other 28 — and a combined 1,195 resort condo units. Plans also called for roughly 89,700 square feet of retail and restaurant space and 130,600 square feet of open space, including two pools and a lazy river.

By early 2007, plans still called for two towers. But the high-rises would have 1,195 hotel rooms, not condos, and the project now included 60,000 square feet of casino space, 16,600 square feet of meeting and convention space and a 10-story parking garage.

During the real estate bubble, it was all too common for would-be developers to draw up big plans, get government approvals, and then flip the site to investors who could actually build what they were proposing, Hildreth said.

But, as with many other mega-projects pitched last decade, the plans for the Chinatown property went nowhere, and the site was seized through foreclosure during the recession.

“They weren’t as lucky,” Hildreth said.

Real Estate