The Ripple Effect
David Mason and Christina Roush’s vision of downtown Vegas transcends the renovation of two city blocks.
Growing up in Las Vegas in the 1960s and ’70s, Christina Roush spent much of her time downtown and embraces her memories.
“Downtown is my town and I believe in bringing it back,” Roush said.
David Mason has been a resident of Las Vegas since 1962 and lived on Philadelphia Avenue in 1968 when “it was actually a nice neighborhood. Kids would hunt for Easter eggs in Circle Park and we would go downtown for the Helldorado and St. Patrick’s Day parades.”
As business partners, Roush and Mason understand the ripple effect of transforming one specific area with vision, business acumen and personal commitment. Roush, owner and operator of HB Properties, Tenaya Creek Brewery and Portfolio Investment & Development, is able to implement her goals on a much broader scale with funding and expertise combined with years of experience. Mason has an extensive background in banking and construction along with operating his own company, Dave Mason Realty, for more than 35 years. He has worked on building the Sundance Hotel and Casino (now the D) on Fremont Street as well as other properties downtown.
Together, Roush and Mason are buying, renovating and developing properties downtown, as well as partnering with other owners of neighboring properties. Their goal is to not only offer affordable housing along with retail and office space, but to create a community of artists, entrepreneurs, students and working residents that extends beyond just a place to live.
Three projects, worth about $7 million, are being developed in the Arts District in the two blocks between Colorado and Utah avenues fronting Casino Center Boulevard and 3rd Street. Roush believes the value of these projects can increase to $10 million once completed.
Creating a test market, the company renovated Prickly Pear Apartments on Casino Center Boulevard. The smallest of the three properties they acquired, it consists of seven units with about $200,000 invested. It became a gated community with a common area including seating, tables, grills, a covered gazebo and outdoor games, along with a parking lot. They also installed streetlights surrounding the property. One of the company’s main goals is to create housing that is as affordable and livable as the neighborhood.
“This was a fantastic case study for us,” Roush said. “It showed us the depth of interest in housing in the south Arts District, and we are very pleased by the high caliber of tenants that we are getting at Prickly Pear. It has ratified our prior plans and fortified our interest in moving forward as fast as we can to affect change and build more in the area.”
“The neighborhood is going to be better,” Mason added. “It’s interesting that when we started with these improvements, the neighbor across the street started fixing up his space. It is catching on.”
PhotoBangBang has been part of the neighborhood for six years and owner Curtis Joe Walker welcomes the changes. “They are buying the most troubled buildings that were poorly managed and were home for squatters with bad things happening. For the past two years, Prickly Pear was getting wild. With new management and getting good neighbors, I am really excited about what they are doing and the new improvements coming.”
HOP is their first commercial property in the area, located across the alley from Prickly Pear, at 1310 3rd St., and consisting of almost 18,000 square feet of office and retail space. It will house the company Co-OperateOn3rd as a shared workspace on the second floor, with a retail furniture showroom and a bar and restaurant on the first floor. The project is under construction and should be ready for occupancy by early fall.
Their other project is located at 201 Utah Ave., where the company is renovating a former youth hostel/motel into 49 units ranging in size from micro-studios to two-bedroom units. Roush said they will begin construction on that property shortly and hope to have occupancy in early 2017.
“Our intentions are to expand down the block, if it works as well as we think it will,” said Mason.
It is almost as if Roush, who began her real estate career in 1988, was being prepared by some unseen force to make an impact in developing downtown Las Vegas in 2016. She worked for CBRE Inc. for 20 years and has been involved in the sale of more than $2.2 billion worth of investment property, representing more than 6 million square feet of office buildings, shopping centers, business parks, self-storage facilities and land for investment.
However, like many Las Vegas residents in 1994, the development of the northwest, including Summerlin, appealed to Roush. “At that time, housing in the core of Las Vegas was losing value,” she explained. While she chose to live in Summerlin, her enthusiasm for the revitalization of downtown is renewed and she would like to eventually move downtown.
She admits that she was part of the generation of Las Vegans that thought that new was bigger and better. “We kept tearing down and blowing up hotels, building new ones and losing all of our historic architecture. I think what is happening now is that people miss what we used to have and want to come back to where our culture and history are.”
Debbie Hall has been a resident of downtown and central Las Vegas since 1978. After attending UNLV, she followed a career path in broadcasting and writing. Currently, she writes for a number of publications and actively supports downtown Las Vegas in its growth and regeneration.