Vu at MacDonald Highlands – Vegas Developer’s Project Reboot Overcomes Sales Concerns

Multifamily Executive

July 20, 2018

Christopher Homes’ luxury mixed-product condos—newly conceived after the recession—exploit beautiful mountain views, undulating topography in Henderson, Nev.

Though the Vu’s exterior blends with the desert rockscaping, pops of color come from the desert flowers planted as well as accents of color throughout on doors, window frames, awnings, and even pots and artwork spaced strategically.

The 1,200-acre master planned community of MacDonald Highlands in Henderson, Nev., had one unbuilt land parcel as of 2005.

J. Christopher Stuhmer, CEO and owner of Las Vegas–based Christopher Homes, purchased the 45-acre site, which offers mountain views. Its steep slope with rock outcroppings posed a challenge—one Stuhmer thought his firm could overcome with careful engineering. Another hurdle: The 2008 economic crisis put a temporary kibosh on the project.

Change In Plans
The developer and the architecture team initially planned for 144 units in multiple four-story condo buildings with two per floor, common elevators, and a garage. While geared to luxury Vegas buyers who generally weren’t hit as hard by the economic crash, Stuhmer worried about sales. He stopped presales, refunded deposits, and sat with the land until 2014. The firm then proceeded with 24 fewer units and ones that would be less costly to build because they didn’t use a podium style. He later bought land to add nine more units.

Variety As Spice
The developer hired a new architect—Irvine, Calif.–based KTGY Architecture + Planning—working closely with Bill Ramsey, principal and architect of record, and colleague David Obitz, lead design architect. As a team, they concluded two different products would work best with the site’s undulating topography. On the downhill side, 70 single-level attached units line the street; on the uphill side, 59 multistory units offer upper-level living spaces for unobstructed views.

“It was highly unusual to give buyers a choice of types in attached housing in the same neighborhood, but it worked,” Stuhmer says.

Pops of Color
The stone, stucco, and large-format tile buildings were designed to be ultra-contemporary with huge glass expanses and a white, cream, and blue palette inspired by the Greek island of Santorini.

“The large format tiles that resemble stone weren’t available five years ago,” Stuhmer says.

Landscape architect Robert “Bob” Stone, ASLA, of Nuvis Landscape Architecture in Costa Mesa, Calif., nestled them in the landscape with recycled boulders and colorful desert flowers that repeat KTGY’s decision to use color in the window frames, awnings, doors, and pottery. The Corten steel used for some details will weather to a dark brown.

The units measure 2,800 to 4,600 square feet; prices range from $850,000 to $2 million.

Luxurious Detailing
To take advantage of views, ceilings extend up more than 11 feet and sliding glass walls open and stack on top of each other for a seamless indoor–outdoor flow. Low-E glass cuts heat during summer months, and the open plan resembles more hotel than home with its concealed kitchen equipment.

Because the ability to entertain was key, kitchens were designed to have functional parts concealed as much as possible, as well as open shelves, luxurious choices in tiles and countertops, and lots of lighting to work, set a mood, and provide overall illumination. “We wanted it to resemble more of a hotel-style lounge with people congregating to cook or eat,” says Bill Ramsey of KTGY Architecture + Planning.

Since many residents also like intimate areas for quiet time, niches were included, along with sheltered outdoor areas.

“The incredible Las Vegas views were our design inspiration. The intent of the modern interiors was to complement the energy of the skyline and be a reflection of what you see beyond,” says Christine S. Johnson, president of Design Tec in Newport Beach, Calif., who oversaw the models’ design. “We wanted to create an emotional reaction at the turn of every corner with unexpected custom-home detailing, specialty finishes, and unique gallery artwork.”

The main lesson learned from Vu, a catchy name to reference the great views, is that luxury buyers will embrace multifamily housing when done right.