Success Stories

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

January 2016

In certain parts of Las Vegas, cool buildings and exciting developments are being constructed.  That is not the case, however, in the downtrodden downtown Sahara/Decatur neighborhood, 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, CCIM, SIOR, 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, making use of multiple Smart Growth Action Grants from the REALTOR® Party, stacked three powerful components that all focused on elevating the livability and economic promise of the Sahara/Decatur area.      

The first step was hosting the National Association of REALTORS®Smart Growth for the 21st Century class for members of the coalition that GLVAR calls its ‘Sahara/Decatur Project Team’.  In addition to Commercial Alliance Las Vegas and the HOPE Home Foundation, it drew participants from the City of Las Vegas, Clark County Planning, the Transit Authority and the Urban Land Institute.  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 and a Level II Smart Growth Action Grant, 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 took over vast buildings and a vacant plaza that had once housed big-box stores and car dealerships.  With a temporary transformation that engaged the local Boys and Girls Clubs and involved a loan of 200 trees, a farmers market, pop-up vendors and local musicians, a pop-up dog park and a bike parade, free pancakes and free hot dogs, GLVAR and its partners demonstrated to residents, community advocates, prospective small businesses and elected political leaders how the environment could be improved. 

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, with the support of a Level III Smart Growth Action Grant from NAR.  “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, community development experts, service and civic groups and elected officials; a third-party facilitator kept the conversation moving forward.  Lane was deeply impressed by the caliber and dedication of the participants.  “These were professionals at the top of their fields, donating eight hours of their Saturday in exchange for a bottle of water and a granola bar!”  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.”

To learn more about how the REALTORS® of Greater Las Vegas have partnered with other community leaders and stakeholders to revive a blighted downtown neighborhood near their association headquarters, contact GLVAR CEO Michele Caprio at mcaprio@glvar.org or 702-784-5010; or REALTOR® Dawn Lane, at hopehomefoundation@gmail.com.

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