Green Valley, unlike our Aliamanu Valley Community work, was a “new town”. Young Mark Fine, our client, contacted me about the possibilities of our being the designer for the team master planning a 8,400 acre site in Henderson, a suburb of Las Vegas, Nevada. The master plan was to provide housing for 100,000 people and constructed over a 20 year period.
The ideas of England’s Garden community movement and Clarence Stein and Henry Wright’s planned communities in the 20s and 30s, regained popularity in the 70s. many new communities or towns were attempted. Only a few succeeded. Green Valley was one. Such developments take substantial front-end investment, deep pockets and staying power. Fine’s assets were staying power and an ability to conceive financial approaches that made site by site development possible.
Previously employed by a New York financial firm, Mark Fine married Susan Greenspun whose father Hank Greenspun owned the Las Vegas Sun Times, other media (TV and radio) and real estate. Young Mark Fine moved to Las Vegas and accepted the responsibility of developing the land. But how and where the money came from had to be his concern. This particular area, even though surrounded by desert, was a favorite for Las Vegas families interested in equestrian and golfing activities.
Fine understood the people and their families that worked in the gambling casinos and downtown. His view was not that voiced in Venturi’s book “Learning from Las Vegas”, but how to build a normal community with traditional American family values, separate and distinct from the neon artificiality and gambling of the “strip”.
Our meeting began a fifteen year on and off working relationship. Though other professionals were involved, he credited us with the original planning concepts. Our ideas of how to build naturally with the desert environment always seemed to him too expensive. For example, we had pointed out that in the Nevada desert climate flash flooding was a common occurrence. This meant costly measures to control the on-rushing flow of rain water, draining it from the roads and home sites and providing landscaped open areas that could also serve as culverts that would carry the flood waters through the site to a stream bed. Ultimately, he understood that these ideas were necessary costs and he would apply them in subsequent sub-divisions. We would then be back in favor until our ideas again were considered too visionary and costly. By 1980, over 1000 acres housing over 8000 people had been developed. Many types of sub-divisions, some PUDs, were built.