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What’s the future of Primm, outlet mall?

Updated July 10, 2024 - 10:23 am

Before of the Fourth of July holiday, Sandra Dimas was filling up her car at a gas station in Primm as she was driving to Las Vegas from Southern California for a dance competition — but didn’t plan to stay for long.

“This is just a rest stop for me,” Dimas said of Primm. “I just want to get to Vegas and don’t want to do much else here.”

About a 40-minute drive from the Las Vegas Strip, Primm is just an oversized rest stop for many. The unincorporated community offers a small collection of a places to stop: a lottery store, a roller coaster, casino-resorts, gas stations, fast food restaurants, an apartment complex and an outlet mall on the border between Nevada and California.

Although the gas stations at Primm usually have many semitrucks and vehicles fueling up, the other venues in the area have become less crowded in recent years, especially the Primm Mall which is completely vacant.

And it begs the questions: What’s the future of the mall, and could it be redeveloped?

Angelica Clemmer, an executive vice president at ROI Commercial Real Estate, said the Primm Mall isn’t likely to rebound anytime soon.

“I really feel like it’s just going to be a ghost town, especially with the Brightline (West) coming in,” she said.

Brightline West, a high-speed rail line being built to connect Southern California and Southern Nevada, could pull more cars off the highway. But it should be a while before Brightline West has a direct impact on Primm since the goal is to have it operational by the 2028 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles.

Shipping and logistics space could be an option for the mall but it’s not likely, experts say. The mall is also close to a proposed reliever airport for Harry Reid International Airport that’s expected to open in the Ivanpah Valley by 2037.

Jarrad Katz, an industrial broker and the president and principal of the MDL Group, didn’t think Primm Mall could easily be used as industrial space because it has odd ceiling heights and truck docks. It would likely need to be torn down for the land to accommodate industrial buildings, he said.

Katz said the only other use for the Primm Mall’s current structure is to convert it into a special purpose use like an indoor theme park but doesn’t know if that’s viable either.

“Who’s going to drive to Primm for something like that … when we have those things in Vegas?”

Primm Mall empty?

Earlier this year one of the last stores in the mall, the Michael Kors outlet, closed leaving thrift store Sanithrift as the only occupant.

But now Sanithrift’s Primm location is closed with signs on the doors saying the store is being updated. It’s unclear when Sanithrift could reopen its Primm location as the company didn’t respond to a request for comment.

It’s a sharp decline for the Primm Mall which was 99 percent leased in 2007 and appraised at $28.8 million pre-pandemic in 2019. The property later sold in 2021 for $400,000 after a bid worth $1.5 million to buy it fell through.

The Primm Mall, which is owned by Kohan Retail Investment Group, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

The change in the Primm Mall has been “dramatic” since the mid-2000s, said Amanda Belarmino, an assistant professor at UNLV’s William F. Harrah College of Hospitality, who first moved to Las Vegas in 2004.

“The outlets were a big draw,” she said. “So you would have people that would go down for the day, that would go shopping, and then they would gamble a little bit, and they would have lunch. It had a kind of a day trip destination for Las Vegas that it doesn’t anymore.”

Future of gaming in Primm

Besides the mall, another draw for Primm are its three big hotels with casinos — Buffalo Bill’s, Whiskey Pete’s and the Primm Valley Resort and Casino — all of which are managed by Affinity Gaming. On recent visits, the properties don’t appear to be very busy and only Buffalo Bill’s has an operational front desk. Guests of all three properties are directed to Buffalo Bill’s to check in.

Belarmino said these properties aren’t likely to grow their revenue or visitation in the future because they don’t get a lot of guests staying for many days at a time.

“A lot of what they’re getting is drive-through traffic, people coming in through California,” she said. “They perhaps are staying there for a night or gaming before they head on to their final destination.”

Belarmino said many people used to gamble at the Primm casinos while driving to Las Vegas to avoid the hassle of visiting the Strip’s casinos. She also said an increase in activity at tribal casinos in California in recent years has reduced the demand for gaming in Primm.

Affinity Gaming declined to comment for this story.

Even though nothing may change in Primm quickly, one draw for the area is a lottery store that is just across the California state line and is one of the easiest ways for Las Vegas residents to buy lottery tickets as it is banned in Nevada. When lottery jackpots flirt with or cross the billion-dollar threshold, the line to get into the lottery store could stretch around the building.

Industrial as an option?

Even though Clemmer doesn’t think Primm is set to rebound anytime soon, she does see some potential for shipping and industrial buildings to be added in the area since plans are in the works for a reliever airport nearby.

For industrial buildings to be built in Primm, there needs to be proper utility lines in the area, Katz said. But he said it’s unlikely there will be any Primm industrial projects soon as industrial developers are more interested in North Las Vegas and the Eldorado Valley.

There is already some industrial development nearby Primm as the shuttered Terrible’s Hotel & Casino in Jean — about 12 miles north of Primm — is set to be torn down and redeveloped into a 3 million square foot industrial park by the Reno-based Tolles Development Co.

Katz said this project’s location is great and it should do well once open.

“Jean is the same distance as Apex (Industrial Park) from the center of town,” Katz said. “It’s the natural way to go, and the majority of our distribution users are getting their materials from the Long Beach Pier, so they can get their materials in without ever entering the valley.”

Even though Primm is close to Jean, the extra 12 miles can make a difference in bringing industrial projects to Primm, Katz said.

“It doesn’t seem that far when you’re looking at larger markets, but I think that most tenants will try to be closer to town,” he said.

Another challenge with industrial projects in Primm is getting enough employees to make the 40-minute drive both ways everyday when other industrial projects are closer to Las Vegas, Katz said.

What will bring people to Primm?

Belarmino doesn’t think Primm’s prospects will change much unless there is a new attraction that is similar to Area15 to bring Primm back to being a day-trip destination for Las Vegans and employees.

“There has to be something to really make it worthwhile for employees to go out there as well,” she said.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on X.

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