Like countless other projects in southern Nevada, mixed-use developments encountered big problems after the economy collapsed a decade ago.
Town Square Las Vegas and The District at Green Valley Ranch were seized. What is now downtown Summerlin has been left as a partially built freeway project for years, and what is now The Gramercy was an abandoned construction site surrounded by barbed wire fencing.
Now, an unlikely developer is building a mixed-use campus in the Southwest Valley that’s expected to feature apartments, offices and restaurants – and will cost more than $ 500 million.
Joe Sorge, who founded a company that made products for genetic analysis and cell biology, and claimed credit as an executive producer for “Workin ‘Moms,” a comedy show on Netflix, builds Evora, a project of 42 acres on Buffalo Drive between Post Road and Patrick Lane.
Construction is underway on the project, which provides 1,343 apartments, 240,000 square feet of retail space and, rare in Las Vegas, underground parking.
Sorge, who also developed the luxury Evo apartment complex and sold it shortly before the pandemic hit for more than $ 100 million, hopes to finish Evora in five years.
He’s not the only one developing a mixed-use project in southern Nevada. UnCommons, also under construction in the Southwest Valley by developer Matter Real Estate Group, is expected to feature offices, apartments and restaurants on a 40-acre site.
But such projects are not widespread today, and for years they have all but disappeared as the Las Vegas construction industry recovered from its near-erasure during the Great Recession.
‘We never know’
In an interview on his project site last month, Sorge said that one of the risks of building a mixed-use complex is the possibility that the developer cannot rent it out due to savings. degraded.
Another is that tenants go bankrupt and cannot pay their rent.
“You never know,” Sorge said. “It’s so hard to predict the economy. But for me, the fundamentals are so ripe here.
He also acknowledged that a mixed-use project – a more complicated business than a typical apartment complex – is more difficult to finance.
Sorge noted that he was paying for Evora’s first commercial building, a three-story steel frame structure, with no exterior construction loan.
Southern Nevada’s commercial real estate industry has also faced a lot of turmoil and questions since the start of the pandemic.
Many people have been working from home for fear of the outbreak, which has sparked discussions about how much office space businesses really need. The Las Vegas apartment sector has seen higher rents, smaller vacancies and more construction, but many tenants have taken advantage of unemployment benefits or other assistance programs to pay their rent in the midst of huge job losses in the casino area.
Government-ordered moratoriums on evictions have also continued to end and resume.
‘I hope I’m right’
Sorge said he rented 22,000 square feet in Evora for a medical “spa” and training center, the clinic of which would offer Botox injections, laser hair removal, eyebrow sculpting, and more. Other tenants are in the works, he added.
Many people have also moved to Las Vegas amid the pandemic to work remotely in larger, cheaper homes. Such tenants “don’t even blink” when apartment owners charge between $ 2 and $ 2.50 per square foot, a rate “unheard of in Vegas six or seven years ago,” Sorge said.
In total, Sorge said he aims to provide a “resort lifestyle” in Evora, with apartments of around 700 to 1,500 square feet and rents of $ 1,600 to $ 3,200 per month.
Facilities are expected to include a performance pavilion, a 1 mile walking trail, saunas and steam rooms, pickleball and tennis courts, and a yoga studio.
The total cost of the project will amount to $ 500 million, he said.
Building an underground garage is expensive, but will allow more space for amenities that would otherwise be eaten up by parking, and Sorge reckons he can land rents high enough to cover the cost of his underground structure.
“And I hope I’m right,” he said. “We will see.”
“Smart talking heads”
Sorge, who grew up in New Jersey, graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1975 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and chemistry and from Harvard Medical School in 1979, according to a securities deposit, who also says he was a resident surgeon at Brown University from 1979 to 1980.
Sorge previously told the Review-Journal that he considered himself more of an inventor and, when determining his medical career, got into research.
His business ventures included biotech firm Stratagene Corp., which he sold for about $ 250 million in 2007. That same year, according to real estate records, he bought an 8,702 square foot home in Summerlin for more. of $ 7.7 million.
He also entered the film industry.
Sorge made a documentary about the divorce industry in 2014 called “Divorce Corp”. Variety Called it a “vigorous but awkwardly argued exposition” with “sleek graphics, clever talking heads, one-sided emotional appeals and accusations of judicial misconduct.
Sorge said last month he moved to Las Vegas amid a custody battle over his now adult son, Danny, the project coordinator for Evora. He wanted to pursue hobbies after selling the molecular biology business, he said, and was looking to buy a few acres of land to build a recording studio.
Instead, a broker found over 20 acres, explaining that the parcel was being foreclosed and sold at a great price compared to what a previous owner had paid.
Sorge bought the site. He also gave up on the idea of the studio and, in the midst of an apartment building boom in Las Vegas, built his own rental property, called Evo.
The project, on Patrick Lane near Durango Drive in the Southwest Valley, includes a rooftop pool and lounge, cabanas, indoor basketball court, spin classes, steam rooms and saunas and other amenities.
He sold the complex in late 2019 for $ 104.5 million.
Sorge broke new ground on Evora before the pandemic hit. But he said he had stopped construction for a few months after the coronavirus outbreak turned daily life upside down to “regroup” and figure out how to do it. He originally planned to build apartments first, but instead chose to start with commercial space.
Plans are changing, Sorge noted.
“Who predicted COVID, right? ” he said.