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Las Vegas REALTORS Bet on Smart Growth, Win Big in Sahara/Decatur

By HOM Editorial Team
February 2016

In certain parts of Las Vegas, innovative buildings and exciting developments are being constructed. That is not the case, however, in the downtown Sahara/Decatur neighborhood, a neighborhood that is not far from the offices of the 12,500-member Greater Las Vegas Association of REALTORS® (GLVAR).

Dawn Lane, one of those members, and the founder of a community development corporation called the HOPE Home Foundation, had been working with numerous working families and struggling millennials in the area, and was seeing the great disparity through their eyes. She decided to do something about it.

“Dawn had the vision, and made it happen,” says Michele Caprio, Chief Executive Officer of GLVAR, “And Bobbi Miracle, our 2015 Commercial Alliance Las Vegas President, was exceptionally supportive of our working together with industry partners to cast a broader net and achieve a more powerful impact with the ambitious three-pronged program that Dawn was spearheading.” That strategy, based on “smart growth” principles, stacked three powerful components that all focused on elevating the livability and economic promise of the Sahara/Decatur area.

The first step was hosting NAR’s Smart Growth for the 21stCentury class for members of the coalition that GLVAR calls its “Sahara/Decatur Project Team”. For one day in March, architects, engineers, planners, city administrators, finance professionals, and REALTORS® came together to be educated about Smart Growth.  “The big take-away seemed to be, ‘Gee, we all have these common goals: it sure makes sense to work together!’” says Caprio.

In partnership with the Urban Land Institute, and with the support of many other members of the Sahara/Decatur Project Team, GLVAR then produced the second part of its plan, a Better Block event.

Over the course of a September weekend, on a corner of West Sahara Avenue and South Decatur Boulevard that Lane describes as “One of the most dangerous pedestrian intersections on the planet,” the event temporarily took over vast buildings.

During the Better Block event, the team got a head-start on the third component of the Sahara/Decatur Project.  In what was effectively a “living charrette,” volunteers collected data from the public to inform the formal charrette that took place in November. “While kids were having their faces painted, GLVAR members with clipboards asked the parents for ideas and suggestions, opinions about land use issues and thoughts about obstacles to re-urbanization, like lack of transportation options.” explains Lane.

The actual charrette brought the Sahara/Decatur Project Team together with residents, stakeholders, thought leaders and elected officials; a third-party facilitator kept the conversation moving forward.

The end product of their progress, says Lane, will be a marketing package, designs and plans to present to prospective developers, the next step in making the vision for Sahara/Decatur become a reality.

“From a city-wide perspective, Las Vegas is ripe for this kind of change.” says Caprio.  “Lots of younger people are moving downtown. Tony Hsieh, the forward-thinking CEO of Zappos, is a major landowner downtown, and young professionals he attracts here are very interested in quality of life issues, like walkability. It makes perfect sense for REALTORS® to be at the forefront of this kind of development,” she adds, “and we’re proud and grateful that NAR has made it possible.”

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