Owners of the District at Green Valley Ranch are one step closer to replacing its pedestrian thoroughfare with a two-way street and dozens of parking spots.
The Henderson Planning Commission on Thursday night voted 5-1, with Commissioner Sean Fellows dissenting and Commissioner Jerry Mansfield absent, to let a new roadway be built through the District’s main outdoor shopping area.
The street would extend from retail tenant Recreational Equipment Inc. to Green Valley Ranch Resort.
The City Council is expected to vote on the plans on Feb. 5.
With the $5 million makeover, Phoenix-based Vestar Development hopes to boost business at the mixed-use center. Company officials have been planning the changes since buying the District more than a year ago and aim to finish construction by October, said Jeff Axtell, vice president of acquisitions and development.
Vestar filed its plans with the city in November.
At the hearing Thursday, some Henderson residents told the commission they were opposed to the roadway, saying it would spoil the District’s character and cause a number of safety hazards. Others have also complained that it would rid the District of one of its main attractions.
The District has hundreds of parking spots surrounding the development, but Axtell and some tenants said the new street would bring shoppers even closer to the stores, allowing for easier access and more commerce.
Pete Kaufman, principal owner of tenants Balboa Pizza Co., Al’s Garage and Presidio, said many businesses there have “struggled with exposure.” Letting people drive through would benefit the merchants, as would the proposed increase in outdoor seating and landscaping.
“It all enhances the District,” he told the commission.
Rachel’s Kitchen owner Chris Connors said he initially was skeptical of the makeover plans and worried that drivers would zip through at fast speeds. But now he supports the project.
Most tenants do not have signage facing the main roads that border the development, he said, and many passersby don’t know the stores are there.
Also, customers now have to walk 100 yards from the parking lot to get to his eatery, but the new street would let people park right outside, Connors said. He expects an increase in carry-out orders.
The District, which has retail, office and residential space, was built in two phases on both sides of Green Valley Parkway just south of the 215 Beltway. The 16-acre east side, which has Whole Foods Market and other tenants, already offers vehicular access throughout the plaza. The recent proposal would only affect the 21.5-acre western portion, though the idea of seeing cars drive through isn’t new.
When that phase opened in 2004, a roadway bisected it in the same place where the new street is slated to be built. In 2005, then-owner American Nevada Company replaced the road with a pedestrian mall.
Vestar, through a joint-venture with investment firm Rockwood Capital, bought the District in October 2011 for $79 million in cash from lenders that had foreclosed on the project earlier that year. The Greenspun family, owner of VEGAS INC and the Las Vegas Sun, developed the District through American Nevada.
Vestar’s broader retail portfolio is about 98 percent leased, and the company bought the District with the intention of revamping it with a roadway and other changes, Axtell said after Thursday’s hearing.
“That was all part of our original business plan,” he said.