A real estate boom is underway in the heart of Las Vegas. Hundreds of millions of dollars are expected to be invested in the next few years in an area known as the Medical District.
The centerpiece of the Medical District will be the UNLV School of Medicine project, but already, developers are wheeling and dealing to scoop up prime properties. And it turns out, one of the investors is an elected official who oversees the medical school.
A lot of people didn’t want UNLV to get a medical school, even some members of the Board of Regents, the elected body which oversees the university system.
Despite criticism and roadblocks, the school of medicine is open, awaiting construction of the main building, but its plans have already ignited investments, real estate deals, and questions.
Against considerable odds and opposition, UNLV’s School of Medicine moved in, and UNR’s School of Medicine moved out. The school’s planned $200 million main building will be the heart of the city’s medical district, which already includes UMC and Valley Hospitals, and other supporting facilities. Economically it will be huge.
“In 10 years we’re talking billions of dollars,” said Lois Tarkanian, a member with the Las Vegas City Council.
Tarkanian and her colleagues at city hall promoted the idea of a medical district years before the med school existed and are investing millions of public dollars to encourage even more private investment. Not surprisingly, land prices in the area near UMC hospital have spiked.
“Absolutely. Land that you could pick up very cheaply is now much, much higher,” Tarkanian said.
Of the many proposals and zoning requests that have come before the city council, one conglomeration of eight different parcels has been among the most contentious.
The eight properties are listed as being on four different streets. They include four homes which appear to be unoccupied, two parcels that are used as a parking lot for a law firm, a long empty lot that also has frontage on Charleston, and assorted odds and ends, but when you look at them on the map, they make for a very appealing contiguous hunk of land in the heart of the medical world across from UMC.
The parcels are owned by two LLC’s: Charleston Land, LLC and another LLC named Shadowland. The partners in the LLC’s are not named in any public documents, except for managing partner Rick Truesdell, whose cornerstone company is a well-known developer.
Truesdell spent 15 years on the city planning commission. He and his team have made multiple appearances before the city with different proposals for what they’d like to develop on the land. So far, all of those ideas have been stymied, for one reason or another. Now, Councilwoman Tarkanian has a new concern. She recently learned that one of the unnamed partners is University Regent Trevor Hayes.
“He never showed up at any meetings, and his name was never mentioned by Mr. Truesdell, so the only way I knew was by citizens in the community,” Tarkanian said.
Regent Hayes may not have told the city he owns a piece of the LLC’s, but he has disclosed because on his 2015 financial disclosure form, he listed no outside properties. By 2016, he listed five, and by 2018, he showed ownership in eight properties and listed both of the LLC’s.
Hayes told the I-Team he has been both transparent and cautious in that he has properly disclosed his interest in the LLC’s and has carefully recused himself from voting on any regent business that might affect the value of the property.
Rick Truesdell said that although the city does not require the names of LLC partners, he would have revealed Hayes’ involvement if he had been asked.
He adds that Tarkanian’s office has found reasons to oppose all of the proposals he has submitted for developing the land.
Tarkanian says she purposely asked at the last meeting whether there was anything else that needed to be disclosed. She vows to be more specific the next time.
“I’ll bring that out, yes, at the next meeting. In fact, anybody who is part of that,” Tarkanian said.
Regent Hayes says he has been a passive, not active partner. He estimates he owns 4 to 5 percent of the partnership and thinks there are 8 to 10 partners total, though he says he does not know the names of all of his partners.
Rick Truesdell says he has worked hard to develop good projects that area residents would accept, and that he is trying to do exactly what the city encourages, which is develop in the Medical District. However, he keeps running into roadblocks.