In the 1950s, Howard Hughes bought land in the Summerlin, Nev., area outside Las Vegas for 25 cents an acre. Lately, when they can find open space on the western rim of Las Vegas Valley, developers are paying $25 a foot for the same land.

The inflation in land prices reflects the growing popularity of the area, which is the fastest-growing metropolitan statistical area in the country, with the population nearly tripling to more than 1.8 million over the last 20 years, according to Marcus & Millichap Real Estate Investment Services.

Job creation has averaged 5.5 percent annually for the last 10 years, and is forecast to rise about 3.4 percent a year over the next five, adding 166,000 jobs. The median price for existing homes — more than $309,000 — has appreciated 10.5 percent a year in the same period. At least part of the growth is attributed to liberal incorporation laws and no state, corporate or individual income tax.

In a city that hosts the 10 largest U.S. hotels, bigger is better — as evidenced by two huge projects under development. General Growth Properties plans the 1.5-million-square-foot open-air Shops at Summerlin Center. Nordstrom, which also anchors General Growth's Fashion Show mall on the Las Vegas strip, is the first department store to sign on for the project that is expected to be up and running in 2009.

Not to be outdone, Canada's Triple 5 Group Ltd., the real estate development company controlled by the secretive Ghermezian family that owns the Mall of America, is building the 1.6-million-square-foot Great Mall of Las Vegas planned for Centennial Hills in fast-growing northwest Las Vegas. It will be a hybrid, with both indoor and outdoor retail components.

Sure, the condo boom surrounding the strip has cooled, with properties attached to big names like Michael Jordan, Ivana Trump and George Clooney being put on hold. But outside the glitz and glamor of the casinos, residential and retail development is undergoing spectacular growth. Summerlin, Las Vegas' largest master-planned community created 15 years ago, still has another solid 10 years of build-out left, says Chris Cunning, senior broker with Marcus & Millichap.

Fast Facts

  • Nevada's population is projected to grow 114 percent between 2000 and 2030, according to the Census Bureau. Its over-65 population will grow 265 percent during that time. Both rates are the highest in the nation of any state.
  • The city ranks 13th in Marcus & Millichap's 2007 National Retail Index — up six notches from its ranking in 2006.
  • Las Vegas currently contains 111.4 million square feet of retail space, ranking it seventh in the nation, according to CoStar Group data.
  • Henderson, which sits on the southern rim of Las Vegas Valley, was named one of the top 20 Best Places to Live by Money magazine.
  • North Las Vegas is the third fastest growing large city in America, according to the Census Bureau.
  • Median household income for Las Vegas is $47,320. Meanwhile, the per capita income of Clark County (where Vegas is located) is $32,963.
  • The median age in Las Vegas is 34.5 years.
  • There are a total of 227,862 housing units in the city.
  • Its current pace is that more than 5,000 residents move to Las Vegas every month.
  • In 2004, 37 million tourists passed through Las Vegas to visit the famed Strip and its massive casino hotels.
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