About
154PH

Michael Light

Black Mountain

2010–2012

The northernmost peak of the McCullough Range, Black Mountain, looms 5’100 feet over a geologically typical Nevada basin 3’000 feet below. The mountain has been popular for a long time: it’s graced with 318 prehistoric rock art panels showing some 1’700 individual petroglyphs. Recently it became part of the 48’000-acre Sloan Canyon National Conservation area; a little less recently the basin below became the fastest growing city in the United States. Most recently, since 2008 and the worst American economic downturn since the Great Depression, Las Vegas has suffered the highest unemployment and home foreclosure rate in the nation. Emptied of people, it has frozen at exactly the point where its aspirational excesses were most baroque and unfettered. Las Vegas is the epicenter of a classically American strain of boom and bust capitalism. Historically the Silver State has always veered between the excess and collapse of the extractive mining industry, but air-conditioning, proximity to California, and the retirement lifestyle have brought another economy to Nevada that operates on the same maniacal principles: the habitation industry. In terms of their physical effect on the land, the extraction and habitation economies are two sides of the same coin.

Vertical topography in desert basin cities like Phoenix and Las Vegas is coveted, and offers a stark look at the economic stratification of the current historical moment. On the southern side of the Las Vegas basin, in the town of Henderson, two developers are in the process of terraforming Black Mountain right up to the precipitous edge of the Sloan Canyon reserve. The MacDonald family shrewdly bought several square miles of the area in the 1980s; their most exclusive development, “Macdonald Highlands,” boasts as a resident Wal-Mart heiress Nancy Walton Laurie, the 106th-wealthiest American with a fortune estimated at $3.8 billion. The most exclusive “guard-gated” community in Las Vegas, however, won’t be habitable for some time. “Ascaya,” a spectacular and unprecedented 664-acre orgy of mountaintop removal above MacDonald Highlands has been dormant since 2008. Owned outright by Hong Kong billionaire and entrepreneur Henry Cheng, who spent $250 million to have the 313 lots blasted out of the mountain with dynamite from 2004 to 2008, the empty lots of “Ascaya” eagerly await Las Vegas’ next upturn, as do its many enthusiasts.

Black Mountain
Bursage Loop trail looking northwest, “Del Webb Anthem” homes beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
City View hiking trail looking southeast, unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and Black Mountain beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and cul de sac looking south, afternoon, Black Mountain beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and cul ce sac looking southeast, morning, Black Mountain beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
Looking southwest over unbuilt “Ascaya” lots, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Looking east over unbuilt “Ascaya” lots, Black Mountain beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and cul de sac looking west, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots looking northwest, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” development looking southeast; $250 million in mountaintop removal and terracing, Henderson, Nevad, 2012
Black Mountain
Black Mountain and unbuilt “Ascaya” lots looking south; Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
Ascaya Boulevard looking south up Black Mountain, morning, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and cul de sac looking northwest, “Sun City MacDonald Ranch” development beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Edge of unbuilt “Ascaya” development looking east; foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain” development at left, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
“Ascaya,” foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain,” and “Roma Hills” developments looking northwest, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
Unbuilt “Ascaya” lots and Cloudloft Court in foreground looking north, “Sun City MacDonald Ranch” development and downtown Las Vegas beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
“Ascaya,” “Roma Hills,” and “Sun City MacDonald Ranch” developments looking southwest, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
“Roma Hills” guard-gated homes looking east; 3'000-8'000 square feet each, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
Tozzetti Avenue and edge of “Roma Hills” homes looking east, foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain” development beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
“Roma Hills” guard-gated homes looking south over Harpsichord Way; landscaper at work, Henderson, Nevad, 2011
Black Mountain
“Roma Hills” homes and foreclosed “Obsidian Mountain” development, “Ascaya” lots beyond, looking south, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
City View hiking trail looking southeast, “Sun City MacDonald Ranch” development below, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
Black Mountain looking east, Dragon Ridge golf course beyond, “MacDonald Highlands” development, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
MacDonald Ranch Drive and Dragon Ridge golf course looking southeast, Nancy Walton Laurie residence beyond, Henderson, Nevada, 2012
Black Mountain
“Stone Mountain Ridge” to right and future “Highlander Ridge” at left, “MacDonald Highlands” development, Henderson, Nevada, 2010
Black Mountain
Dragon Ridge golf course looking southeast, empty lot adjacent to Nancy Walton Laurie residence, “MacDonald Highlands” development, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
Black Mountain
St. Croix street looking northwest, 14th hole Dragon Ridge golf course, “MacDonald Highlands” development, Henderson, Nevada, 2011
36°10'30.0"N 115°08'11.0"W

Location: Las Vegas, USA

Posted: January 2017
Category: Photography

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