Pinches Tacos at the Gramercy emerges as a brunch favorite

Las Vegas Weekly Staff | LAS VEGAS WEEKLY

Brunch is an institution in Las Vegas, proven by the fact that you can find weekend hot spots away from the Strip, all over town. On the west side, you don’t have to wait for the weekend to brunch it up—that’s where Pinches Tacos comes in.

The California transplant that first broke into Vegas with a taco shop at Downtown Container Park has opened a festive, expanded location at the Gramercy, and favorite desayuno dishes are available there every day of the week. The potato- and pico de gallo-stuffed breakfast burrito might be the obvious choice if you’re nursing a hangover, but don’t bypass the chilaquiles—tortilla chips sautéed with eggs, Oaxacan cheese, onions, cilantro and a house-made red chile salsa. Topped with sour cream and guacamole, this dish is great for sharing. Other favorites include a breakfast torta layered with eggs, pinto beans and fresh crema, and a chorizo scramble that satisfies with spice.

Pair any of these plates with an icy Dos Equis, a blood orange margarita or a spicy michelada to achieve the ultimate brunch combination. Pinches Tacos at the Gramercy, 702-818-4208; Sunday-Thursday 9 a.m.-11 p.m., Friday & Saturday 9 a.m.-1 a.m.

Second chances: DW Bistro’s opening symbolic of the Gramercy’s newfound momentum

By Adam Candee |  VEGAS INC

Hands joined in prayer, Bryce Krausman and Dalton Wilson sat in a car across Russell Road from the ManhattanWest project in 2006 and hoped their future waited inside the ambitious new mixed-use development.

Their DW Bistro instead would land a mile away in a turnkey spot tucked in a Fort Apache Road strip mall. The restaurant thrived while ManhattanWest stalled after losing funding in 2009, decaying into a steel eyesore symbolic of the recession.

Two years ago, though, Ofir Hagay and business partners Michael Werner and Benjy Garfinkle dropped in for lunch after buying the bones of ManhattanWest for $20 million. They insisted that the cozy eatery described by Wilson and Krausman as “Jamaican meets New Mexican cuisine” move as a retail anchor to what is now known as the Gramercy. Wilson immediately texted Krausman; their dream space might finally be ready just as their current lease expired.

“It was kind of one of those warm moments knowing it belonged here,” Krausman said.

The doors of the new DW Bistro will open in the Gramercy, at Russell Road just off the 215 Beltway in the southwest valley, the first week of November, a major building block in the reimagining of one of the Las Vegas Valley’s few mixed-use communities.

“It’s not a construction site anymore,” Hagay said. “It’s a living, dynamic place. The whole concept of mixed-use projects, which is, in a way, new to Las Vegas, I think you can see the proof that it’s working.”

After imploding a crippled nine-story, 72-unit condo tower last year, developers WGH Partners and the Krausz Cos. pushed forward with 160 upscale apartments and 190,000 combined square feet of office and retail space. Ground-floor retail tenants also include Pinches Tacos, Cuppa Coffee, Portion Control, Raw Fitness and Nohea Nails, reflecting the developers’ focus on attracting locally owned businesses.

All but 3 percent of the 190,000 square feet is leased and will be occupied within the next two months. Apartments ranging from a 530-square-foot studio to a 2,085-square-foot penthouse vary in price from $1,075 to more than $3,000 per month, and are nearly 80 percent occupied.

Sitting in the development’s centerpiece courtyard on a charming fall day, Hagay pointed up through windows around the encircling four-story, faux-urban buildings and described workers preparing the last available office space for newly contracted clients.

“This type of urban construction is very hard to copy because of the cost to do it,” Hagay said. “It’s something very unique.

“The real estate in Las Vegas — residential and commercial — is outdated.” he added. “The strip malls, the one-story business park. The market is changing. The demand is changing.”

While the Gramercy stands out as one of few attempts at combined residential/office/retail development in Southern Nevada, a broader preference for similar projects appears to be emerging, according to Ed Coulson, an economics professor and director of UNLV’s Lied Institute for Real Estate Studies at Lee Business School.

“That’s the wave of the present,” Coulson said. “Nationwide, there’s a desire for what some people would call more sustainable forms of architecture, which goes part and parcel with mixed-use development.”

The Gramercy’s mixed-use concept attracted Krausman and Wilson as they readied for the “grown-up” DW Bistro that offers 1,100 square feet more than its previous home. Krausman’s energy radiates as he leads a hard-hat tour of the corner space in flooding late-afternoon sun, pointing to where the new rotisserie and full-size ice cream machine will go while expressing equal excitement for increased room for glass washing in the back.

He weaves into the conversation business plans based in part on the Gramercy’s design: two private dining rooms and expanded kitchen space for catering to serve office tenants, and a DW app for delivery and pickup orders for residents. Krausman and Wilson also plan to add six employees and expand hours to include a Sunday supper and a Monday lunch.

“The energy really is awesome here,” Krausman said. “It has a great view of the valley. They built it in the right place. It felt right for DW to grow into the space.”

Vince Upperman, owner and chef at recently opened Portion Control, chose the Gramercy for his first brick-and-mortar location because of the development’s uncommon layout and plans.

Upperman and his wife, Natalee, started Portion Control as a healthy prepared-meal business and rented the kitchen of the Blue Diamond Saloon to cook. They quickly realized the need for their own space, and Raw Fitness and its built-in clientele sat across the Gramercy’s courtyard. Upperman said a large part of his business in the first month walked over from Raw post-workout.

“It’s the vision,” Upperman said of the developers. “They have really good vision of where they want to go.”

Just a few years ago, seeing a profitable future for ManhattanWest’s broken windows and half-finished walls required vision in Costco quantities. Hagay left a job in Bulgaria to move to Las Vegas in 2003 for work on condo conversions. He lives with his wife and children in Red Rock Country Club and drove by ManhattanWest every day, watching the project go from promise to pratfall after original developer Alex Edelstein reportedly lost funding on his $170 million investment in 2009.

“It’s hard not to notice this, especially when the high-rise was here and it was really an eyesore with the steel structure in place, and the curtain walls were about 30 percent done,” Hagay said.

Around the same time near the nadir of the recession in Las Vegas, Hagay, Werner and Garfinkle partnered with plans to acquire partially finished properties. Negotiations for the Gramercy took nearly two years, Hagay said, and the project stood out among the group’s five investments because of its bold, original design.

“At the time that we bought it, everybody said, ‘Oh, you’re crazy,’ ” Hagay said. “Nobody knew exactly what we were buying.”

Such skepticism pervaded in the early part of the decade, when home prices cratered and overbuilt commercial real estate sat vacant for years. The neighboring area included empty lots and a failed restaurant project, and it would be years before Ikea — just an exit down the 215 Beltway — would invigorate the area with its 2016 opening.

History portended some degree of rebound in demand and pricing, but with less certainty for a type of mixed-use development to which Las Vegas was unaccustomed.

“Part of this is just what you might call a market correction,” Coulson said of recent growth in the local real estate market. “By the time we hit bottom in 2012, everyone had been so pessimistic that there was some modification of expectations.”

The Las Vegas market shows modest improvement in both office and retail vacancy rates. From the second quarter of 2015 to the same period in 2016, retail vacancy dropped from 9.7 to 9.2 percent and office vacancy fell from 18.5 to 16.7 percent. The quarterly forecast from Colliers International suggests both sectors could soften for the remainder of the year.

Given those conditions, Hagay and his partners will wait for the right time to begin a second phase of the Gramercy, which could include up to 500,000 square feet of mixed-use properties. Hagay, Werner and Garfinkle have close to a century of experience in American and international development, and take a sober view of the Las Vegas market’s potential to bounce back.

“The Las Vegas economy, and especially real estate, it’s a cycle,” Hagay said. “We can never change that cycle because there are too many elements — banking, mortgage, the overall economy.

“You remember Simba in ‘The Lion King?’ It’s the circle of life. It’s the cycle of the economy.”

Some parts of anticipated conversion proved untenable. Hagay and his partners decided it would be too expensive to repair the partially constructed and structurally questionable condo tower, and planned its implosion.

“Not everyone had positive thinking about what you see here,” Hagay said. “A lot of people said, ‘How can you rent this?’ But you see here with your own eyes. People are living here, people are working here, people are dining here.”

Young women in bright yoga pants and vibrant tank tops sprint back and forth through the Gramercy’s concrete courtyard right before lunch, from the doors of Raw Fitness under a gazebo to the main office entrance and back up the gradual incline as part of their boot-camp routine. Minutes later, two of the women walk out the front entrance toward the shaded patio adjacent to Cuppa Coffee and Nohea Nails.

The taller woman glances down at her cellphone and says, “It’s not very often you get your (butt) kicked like that and still walk out laughing.”

The same could be said for this development.

Rental Real Estate Heats Up

Rental Real Estate Heats Up

By Melinda Sheckells | VEGASSEVEN.COM

The development of architecturally interesting, affordable mid-rise luxe rental properties is on the rise, coinciding with a large demand by those seeking a carefree, low-maintenance lifestyle.

California transplants are especially fond of this type of living because it mimics many of the offerings there. The communities feature amenities that rival resorts, and as the weather gets warmer, the pool scene at home becomes just as important as the one on the Strip. Here’s a look at a few of the most chic:

The Lennox

Location: Cactus Avenue and Bermuda Road

Details: 100 units, starting at $1,250/month.

Outdoor amenities: Two gas grills with mini fridges, fire pit, day beds, complimentary beverages and snacks, six cabanas with TVs and an indoor/outdoor gym.

The vibe: Day party. The residents at this community, dubbed the “Melrose Place of Las Vegas,” love to frolic poolside. Many work in the service industry, so the outdoor life comes alive on Sundays and Mondays.

The closer: Poolside games such as a foosball, ping-pong, bag toss and giant Jenga. TheLennoxLV.com

Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas residences

While it qualifies as neither affordable nor mid-rise, the residences at luxury resort Mandarin Oriental, Las Vegas are one of the most coveted addresses in town, and a few opportunities exist for renters.

Location: Adjacent to Aria

Details: 225 units, $3,200-$12,500/month.

Outdoor amenities: 166 lounge chairs, two pools, two Jacuzzis and a plunge pool, two showers, 19 cabanas.

The vibe: Luxury resort. As a resident, you are checking in for more than just a few nights, so make sure you are on a first-name status with your cabana attendant. Plus, hit up the pool café, which serves fresh, light fare to achieve your #bodygoals.

The closer: Owners and renters get the same amenities as hotel guests. Cabana rentals come with mini smoothies and frozen fruit, a complimentary mini bar with non-alcoholic beverages, suncare and passed pool amenities every hour. MandarinOriental.com/Residences.

The Lennox Las Vegas Meets Completion and is Ready for Residents

By Michelle Madole | NEVADA BUSINESS

LAS VEGAS – The Lennox, Las Vegas’ newest luxury residential complex, is now ready to welcome the city’s trendy, young professionals. The swanky four-story midrise offers residents boutique-style living with first-class amenities and spacious floor plans sprawling the 200,000 square-foot property.

The uniquely designed U-shaped community, located conveniently off the new Interstate 15 and Cactus Avenue exit, is now leasing 100 lavish units. Prospective residents are now able to tour model units. The Lennox boasts one to three bedroom expanded floor plans spanning 930 to 1,900 square feet with three elevators providing quick and easy access to all units.

The units will offer dual master suites in selected floor plans, oversized private balconies featuring coveted Strip and mountain views, access-controlled podium parking, upgraded flooring, modern stainless steel appliances, eye-catching open kitchen layouts complemented by granite countertops with pendant lighting illuminated bar, and chic frameless shower doors accompanied by beautiful quartz bathroom countertops.

In addition to offering plush living accommodations, The Lennox residents will bask in vast amenities throughout the property including an outdoor community gathering area surrounding an inviting pool and grand spa with furnished cabanas adorned with flat screen TVs and a music hub not commonly found in residential complexes, outdoor BBQs, lush pet park, club house with a coffee bar, resident lounges on each floor equipped with flat screen TVs ideal for game and movie night, state-of-the-art fitness center, on-site storage units, convenient dry cleaning services and Wi-Fi throughout the property.

For residential leasing information, please contact Rachael Sigmund at 702.527.5233;   Rachael@thelennoxlv.com.

The Lennox Las Vegas

The Lennox Las Vegas is a unique residential urban village located on the corner of Bermuda and Cactus east of Las Vegas Blvd South, easily accessible off the new I-15 and Cactus exit. The 200,000 square-foot four-story midrise complex will feature; 100 luxury units boasting prime Strip and mountain views, vibrant pool and spa with a fully-furnished cabana design unique to Las Vegas, outdoor BBQ grilling area, lush pet park, state-of-the-art fitness center, club house with a coffee bar, three residences only lounges, direct access underground parking, on-site storage units, dry cleaning services and Wi-Fi throughout the property. Offering a rare U-shaped architectural design that allows units to be built comparable to single family homes in a gated community setting, The Lennox brings a boutique style presence to the growing Southern Las Vegas area.

The Lennox Las Vegas is owned by an affiliate of WGH Partners, LLC, a Las Vegas based real estate firm. For more information about The Lennox, please visit http://thelennoxlv.com/

Long-Awaited Gramercy Finally Nearing Completion

Vegas Seven Staff | VEGASSEVEN.COM

Projector screens, wine, cheese and treadmills are just a few things on Jay Krigsman’s mind these days. The executive vice president for Krausz Companies, which is a joint owner of the Gramercy in the southwest part of the Valley, is in the midst of a lease and letter-of-intent maelstrom. But it should all pay off in the spring with plenty of live-work-players at the new community, which is being billed as an “urban village.”

To date, Krausz has leased about two-thirds of the 200,000 square feet of office space at the former Manhattan West recessionary casualty. The three main tenants are custom homebuilder Touchstone Living, Regus office suites and HDI (Health Data Insights), a medical and financial services company. HDI currently has some employees on-site, and hiring is under way. Regus and Touchstone are building out their spaces.

The Gramercy is intended to be a chain-free dining destination with hip concepts, such as DW Bistro’s market and kitchen, which is under construction. So is Cuppa Coffee House and Alex Stratta’s Italian Steakhouse. All should open in the spring.

Krigsman says a fitness operator must also gel with the Starbucks- and Subway-free dining offerings. “We don’t want them only using four walls. … You see it all the time at apartment complexes: a couple of treadmills, an elliptical [machine] and a plasma screen,” he says. “We want to see exercise groups, yoga, stretching in the central park area. This place should always have energy.”

That central park area is positioned between the Gramercy’s two residential buildings and will be home to a pool, fire pits and the largest outdoor projection screen in the Valley.

Krigsman says the first residents should be moving into the New York-style apartments by January, with monthly rents ranging from the $900s for studios to more than $4,000 for penthouses. And it appears that demand is outpacing supply by about a 5-to-1 ratio, with more than 1,000 names inquiring about the 245 units.

“I’m hoping by late spring we’ll have evenings in the plaza, movies under the stars, farmers markets,” Krigsman says. “By next summer, we should be humming.”

Work progressing on recession-stalled Beltway project

By Eli Segall | LAS VEGAS SUN

Buying an abandoned real estate project — and there were plenty to choose from in Las Vegas — can seem like a steal, since owners usually sell cheap to get back any money they can from the failed venture.

The trade-off for buyers? It can be a years-long, hair-pulling process to untangle a property’s legal woes, close the sale and prepare to finish construction.

Investors Benjy Garfinkle, Ofir Hagay and Michael Werner know this all too well. Through their company WGH Partners, they bought and finished a mothballed Las Vegas office complex and are wrapping up work at a once-busted condo project.

They also are completing the former ManhattanWest, the stylish retail, office and residential complex that sat unfinished for years at Russell Road and the 215 Beltway, one of the most visible casualties of the building bust.

Abandoned developments often are bogged down by lawsuits and liens and frequently get seized by lenders or end up in bankruptcy court. Investors need to determine who owns what, who is owed what, which repairs are needed, if wiring and pipes were stolen, if building permits are still valid, and if anyone can find the blueprints.

“Sometimes we joke among ourselves that we’re like Indiana Jones, trying to reveal the past,” Hagay said.

Despite the headaches, several other investors pounced on mothballed projects in recent years, betting that Las Vegas’ once-battered economy would improve — and that their bargain deals would pump out big profits.

They include Malaysia’s Genting Group, which last year bought the partially built Echelon resort on the Strip with plans for a multibillion-dollar Chinese-themed megaresort. Howard Hughes Corp. in 2010 took control of the Shops at Summerlin Centre — the abandoned retail and office complex near Red Rock Resort — as part of a corporate spin-off, completed construction and opened it Oct. 9 as Downtown Summerlin. Last year, the Pinnacle Family of Cos. bought Vantage Lofts, a partially built luxury condo project in Henderson, and now, having finished it, are charging up to $4,545 a month in rent.

During the downturn, WGH bought a pair of unfinished two-story office buildings off Russell Road east of the Beltway. One building at the Red Rock Business Center, as the property is known, is now fully leased. The other building is empty but Garfinkle said his group is close to signing the first tenant there and is negotiating with several other prospective renters.

WGH also bought failed condo project Milano Residences on Cactus Avenue at Bermuda Road. The original developers defaulted on a $19 million loan and lost the partially built, four-story complex to foreclosure in 2010. Lenders sold it to WGH in 2012 for just $2 million.

The trio resumed construction last November and plan to have the 100-unit property, now called the Lennox, ready for occupancy in mid-December as a high-end rental complex.

Units range from about 850 to 1,800 square feet and will be priced from $1,300 to $2,800 per month. Amenities include stainless steel appliances, granite counter-tops and poolside cabanas.

Meanwhile, WGH also is working with San Francisco developer the Krausz Cos. to finish ManhattanWest, now called the Gramercy. Krausz bought the 20-acre property last year for $20 million from developer Alex Edelstein, who spent around $170 million before he lost his funding and stopped construction during the downturn.

Contractors and lenders are fighting over who gets the sales proceeds, and Edelstein wound up with nothing, Garfinkle said. Edelstein could not be reached for comment.

He reportedly wanted to sell condos there for $200,000 to $1 million each. The property’s 160 units, in two four-story buildings with underground parking, range from 530 to almost 2,100 square feet and are slated to be rented for $950 to $3,500 per month. They will be ready for occupancy in early 2015, Garfinkle said.

The Gramercy also features two office buildings and is expected to have restaurants, outdoor movies, food trucks and other amenities. However, its nine-story residential tower facing the Beltway remains unfinished and might get torn down.

Hagay and Garfinkle recently spoke with VEGAS INC at the Lennox and the Gramercy about those projects. The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.

You bought the Lennox for $2 million. That’s a huge discount, but not unusual for a mothballed project.

Garfinkle: That issue always comes up — people say, ‘You just stole this asset.’ That’s really not accurate, because the cost to finish these is so high, and the market is so much different today.

Hagay: There was so much work to be done. If you add up the overhead and costs, the architects, engineers, it took three years of work before we even started construction.

What appealed to you about the Lennox?

Hagay: This is an expensive project — this is not a garden-style, stick-frame apartment building. This is a small community, and we are planning to give great amenities.

The rents here, even at the lowest end, are above market average.

Hagay: It’s higher than market average, but it’s a different type of product. You can charge more if you have a different product, if you offer more amenities, if you are a unique.

The owners of the Ogden recently began listing units for sale in the downtown high-rise that had been rented as apartments. Do you foresee doing that at the Lennox?

Garfinkle: Not at this time. I’m a very strong believer in the condo market in town, but the prices are too low to make it work. If we wanted to open the Lennox next week as condos, we’d probably sell them very quickly, but not at prices that justify the transition from for-rent to for-sale.

ManhattanWest was supposed to be a very stylish project but it ended up an eyesore for years. What got you interested in it? Why take it on, even though it had a lot of problems?

Garfinkle: Being on the curve of the Beltway, having such a high-profile project — there’s nothing else like it in this area. It’s such a special project — the design, the architecture, the quality, the size.

You’ve lined up several restaurants for the site. Will there be shopping, too?

Hagay: No. If you look around the area, there are a lot of rooftops and offices, but there is nothing to offer for food. We believe there is a demand here, and we have a captive audience.

Garfinkle: We want to create a destination, to come here, stay in the courtyard, work out in the gym, have coffee, beer, wine.

What’s the status of the tower facing the Beltway? It looks like it hasn’t changed since you bought it. What have you done there, and what are your plans?

Garfinkle: It was vandalized, things were stolen, copper wiring was ripped out. We’ve cleaned it up and obtained permits to restart construction but haven’t done that yet. We’ve finished design work, too, but we’re looking at other options for the land: What would be the highest and best use for the community? Is the tower really the right fit?

Are you considering tearing it down?

Garfinkle: Yes.

I suppose if you don’t do anything with it, the tower could scare people off. It faces the freeway and almost looks like a bomb hit it. It looks pretty bad.

Garfinkle: By the beginning of next year, either the tower will be under construction or the tower will be gone. In the next few months, the final decision will be made that we either go ahead and build it — which is probably not on the top of the list — or don’t. We’re looking at different studies to see what the mix should be — how much more office should be here, how much more residential. We will replace it with something else.

Benjy, you’ve said the ManhattanWest purchase was one of the most complex deals you ever worked on. Can you talk about how difficult it was, and what you had to go through to buy it and gear up to finish it?

Garfinkle: The project never went into foreclosure, but there were legal disputes between the contractors and the bank that predate us and continue today, over who had first lien rights. A local brokerage put out a call for offers, and we were the successful bidder. We paid $20 million, but the lenders and the contractors are still in litigation over who gets that money. It has no effect on the site; we’ve got clear title. But the court took the $20 million, it’s sitting in escrow, and the lenders and contractors are still haggling over it.