September 5, 2008

Union Park Project Gains Certification


The Union Park development in downtown Las Vegas has reached another environmental milestone, officials announced Wednesday.

Last year, the project - which will include a performing arts center, a brain research facility, hotels, a casino, a jewelry trade center and housing - was added to a pilot program that emphasizes environmentally friendly development.

The project has now attained gold certification - the second highest available - under the second stage of the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program, or LEED, which is administered by the U.S. Green Building Council.

"This truly is an exceptional project on an exceptional piece of property," said Pamela Vilkin, president of the council's Nevada chapter. "The world is watching."

The second stage means that the project's plans have been approved and construction is ready to begin, said Rita Brandin, senior vice president of Newland Communities, which is overseeing the development.

Of the 228 projects accepted to LEED nationally, eight have been certified at some level. Union Park is Nevada's only LEED project.

The next step comes after construction is complete, when the buildings and the design will be evaluated again.

"The ultimate build-out won't occur for several years," Brandin said.

LEED officials look at several factors, including whether the site is centrally located, walkable, and has access to public transportation and nearby jobs as well as open and public spaces. The buildings must be energy and water efficient.

It also helped that the 61-acre Union Park site is a former rail yard that's being redeveloped from a brownfield into an urban center.

The Lou Ruvo Brain Institute is under construction and is expected to open early next year. Work is under way on roads and infrastructure for the site.

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