Few would mistake Nevada for Hawaii. Yet, a vision of homes dotting the hillsides of Las Vegas, similar to the way homes nestle into the lush hillside mountains in Hawaii, led the way to what would become MacDonald Highlands, a new luxury golf course community in the hills overlooking Green Valley Ranch.
Although from Nevada, “Mac” and Frances MacDonald lived in Hawaii for nearly 20 years, eventually founding that state’s largest real estate company. But Nevada beckoned as the family, including son Rich, regularly returned to visit. Finally, in the early 1980s, gaming industry pioneer Sam Boyd showed the MacDonalds two square miles of property on the southeast edge of town. “It looked like nothing more than a lot of rocks, and people would see us driving out there and say, ‘There go those crazy MacDonalds,’” said Frances.
The property sat for almost twenty years as Las Vegas grew and Green Valley became one of the most desirable places to live in the valley. “As Green Valley began to grow out, we became a little brighter,” laughed Rich MacDonald, who now serves as president of MacDonald Companies. Now that developable land is scarce, they seem very bright, indeed. “Our status as Southern Nevada’s first, and to this point, only, hillside community allows us to offer homebuyers something truly unique -” said Rich. “hillside home sites with panoramic views overlooking the Las Vegas valley.”
The luxury home sites are designed as a low-density community. At build-out, the 1,200-acre community will only include approximately 500 custom homes. The perception of density in the community will be even lower, due in part to the varying levels of elevations at which homes will be built and the natural canyons and washes in the mountain landscape, which help provide a feeling of great expanse and seclusion.
MacDonald Highlands offers custom home sites from one-third acre to two acres, with prices ranging from $135,000 to more than $1 million. The home sites will offer a variety of elevated views, including the Las Vegas Valley and the Strip, the DragonRidge Golf Course and the surrounding McCullough Mountains.
“We are trying to maximize the quality of everything we do,” explains Rich. “Our job is not just to sell lots, but to have the luxury development in Las Vegas. [We are focusing] on a small market of upper-end buyers who want the feel of huge open areas with beautiful landscaping.”
Within the Highlands and throughout the rest of MacDonald Ranch, the developer is preserving as much of the hillside as possible, using native plantings and other desert plants to enhance the natural landscape. Extensive trail systems lead back into the hills, to the private Montessori school and down into the valley. A meandering sidewalk along the south side of Horizon Ridge Parkway will connect to MacDonald Highlands so bikers and hikers have easy access to restaurants, parks, shopping areas and the other MacDonald Ranch developments, which include affordable family and retirement living as well as commercial properties.
MacDonald Ranch will eventually be comprised of four unique villages measuring more than 3,200 acres and containing two 18-hole golf courses, public and private schools, office parks and retail centers. In the design stage is a commercial development that Rich is particularly excited about. The MacDonald Ranch Center is a 31-acre complex on the southeast corner of Green Valley Parkway and Horizon Ridge Parkway. The development is being planned with three components: a 15-acre retail shopping center, a restaurant row built at a 35-foot elevation overlooking the entire Valley and a two-story office building. The restaurant row will be reminiscent of a hillside village in Tuscany, built of stone and rough-faced brick with covered arches, a center fountain and beautiful landscaping, creating a welcome relief from the summer heat. Locals will be able to bike or walk into the meandering complex and eat al fresco with the whole of Las Vegas spread out as a backdrop.
Not nearly as visible, nestled in the northernmost foothill area of the McCullough Mountains, The MacDonald Center for the Arts and Humanities will house the heart of the Ranch. Still in the planning stages, the 22-acre center will support the MacDonald Center for Ancient History, a non-profit organization and museum dedicated to the science of archaeology and the study of ancient civilizations.
The museum is planned to have exhibit areas, classrooms, a children’s discovery area, a scholar’s library, a gourmet restaurant, museum store and indoor theater. The first set of exhibits will focus on the Bronze Age worldwide. The Lord Cultural Resource Management Company of Toronto is developing a business and master plan for the museum. Nadel Architects, Inc. is designing the building, and Marcia Garcia, who built a children’s museum in Kansas, has been hired to serve as the Executive Director. Under her influence, a moveable museum, or bus, is being developed to use for community and educational outreach.
MacDonald Ranch is one of the few master-planned communities that really does attempt to be a community – places to meet and interact, places to wine and dine, places to educate, illuminate and inspire.