Want To Buy A Town? Boom-And-Bust Nipton Could Be Yours For A Mere $3 Million
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When I met Shannon Salter I didn’t expect her to ask me if I wanted to buy a town. Specifically, Nipton. The 80-acre patch in the Mojave Desert has one hotel, one restaurant, five eco-cabins, 10 teepees and an RV park — and it’s for sale… again.
Salter, a graduate student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, describes the dusty town as a “magical place, probably one of the most magical on earth” and hoped I might have some fresh ideas to raise money for it.
She gestured with a mason jar of wine as she told me, on Zoom, about her dream for Nipton: transforming this spot in the middle of nowhere into a sustainable eco-village and tourist outpost for the Mojave National Preserve.
Located on the eastern edge of San Bernardino County, where it bumps up against Nevada, Nipton feels far away from everything. But it’s only a one-hour drive from Las Vegas, off the busy I-15 corridor on Nipton Road, which connects the towns of Mountain Pass and Searchlight. Surrounded by flat valleys and mountain vistas, the landscape of creosote and yucca is broken only by the occasional road or the glare from the Ivanpah solar plant, whose mirrors reflect light into the sky.
The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System is seen in the Mojave Desert of California on March 3, 2014. The facility uses 347,000 computer-controlled mirrors to focus sunlight onto boilers on top of three 459-foot towers, where water is heated to produce steam to power turbines providing power to more than 140,000 California homes.
For Salter, who started visiting Nipton in 2009 and became obsessed with it, the town is an escape from Las Vegas, where she lives. Nipton, she says, is “both the past and the future. ” She imagines a small, friendly town with a slow, eco-friendly lifestyle, even if it is in the shadow of rare earth mines and solar towers. Her vision is in line with that of Jerry Freeman, who bought Nipton in 1984 and whose widow, Roxanne Lang, has put it up for sale. Salter’s dream probably won’t pan out but nothing really does here. Nipton is a place out of time, a tiny desert outpost caught in a long cycle of flashy booms and extended busts, waiting for a new dream.
A school bus with a mural painted on it in Nipton, California.
In 2017, Nipton made headlines when cannabis technology company American Green bought the town for $5 million. The company said it planned to transform it into “the country’s first energy-independent, cannabis-friendly hospitality destination.” According to American Green CEO David Gwyther (who is also the company’s chairman, president, CFO and secretary), the “cannabis revolution” was going to “completely revitalize communities in the same way gold did during the nineteenth century. ”
The purchase seemed like a publicity stunt for a penny-stock company trying to grab a piece of the marijuana business boom. Before becoming American Green in 2014, the company had changed its name six times since 1998. The names don’t mean much on their own — Desert Winds Entertainment, SunComm Technologies, The Amergence Group, etc. — but such incessant rebranding is common for over-the-counter stocks aiming to attract investors by cashing in on current trends.
The old school house in Nipton, California.
Although pot was legal in both California and Nevada, Nipton found itself in a harsh regulatory environment. In 2016, San Bernardino County passed a resolution banning commercial cannabis activity, including growhouses and dispensaries, in unincorporated parts of the county, such as Nipton.
American Green was banned from selling marijuana in the town it had bought for that purpose. If Gwyther was counting on the county to loosen its cannabis restrictions, it was a bad bet. The ban remains in effect to this day.
A dynamite shed in Nipton, California.
In 2018, only a year after buying Nipton, American Green sold the town to its subsidiary, CannAwake (formerly known as Delta International Oil & Gas) for $7.73 million, 55% more than it had paid. Soon after, CannAwake stopped paying its loan on Nipton. In late 2019, previous owner Roxanne Lang began foreclosure proceedings. It seemed like Gwyther had ignored all the stories about what followed the California gold boom — its inevitable bust.
Gwyther declined to comment on Nipton, American Green or CannAwake for this article. Despite repeated attempts, we could not reach representatives from CannAwake, Nipton, or associated enterprises. But Nipton’s boom-and-bust cycle began long before Gwyther or American Green showed up.
Old rusty mining tools in Nipton, located on the northeast edge of the Mojave Desert in California.
Boom Goes The Dynamite
The town sprung up in the early 1900s to service local miners and grazers, as local historian Patricia Schoffstall explains in Mojave Desert Dictionary. It became known as Nippeno after the local Nippeno Consolidated Mine company, which had gold claims dating to the late 19th century. In 1905, when the railroad was completed, the new post office changed the small settlement’s name to Nipton to honor a railroad engineer on the San Pedro, Los Angeles and Salt Like line and prevent confusion with the California coastal town of Nipomo.
Nipton was a local stop on the Union Pacific where cattle from Rock Springs Land and Cattle Company, Yates Ranch and the Walking Box Ranch (which was owned by silent film stars Rex Bell and Clara Bow) were loaded into freight cars and sent to Los Angeles.
Nipton, circa 1916.
In its heyday, during the 1910s, Nipton was a gathering place for the many small desert mining and ranching communities surrounding it. Residents could pick up their mail and buy supplies such as flour, canned foods and fabric. Boasting a general store in the 1910s, Nipton likely stayed alive because it was a stop on the railroad line and had a post office.
By the 1920s, gold and silver became harder to reach, and the area’s hard rock mining industry dried up, according to the 1981 book, Desert fever: An overview of mining in the California Desert Conservation Area. In 1893, the neighboring community of Vanderbilt, presumably named for the riches its mines hoped to accrue, had more than 400 residents, a Chinese restaurant and two saloons. By 1924, Vanderbilt had a population of 8. The same census listed Nipton’s population at 15.
Nipton Mercantile with Larry Treahearne (left) and Mr. and Mrs. Collins, circa 1940.
Its one-room schoolhouse, built in the 1930s, was shuttered by the 1950s, and children were sent to school 15 miles away in Mountain Pass, home to a new rare earth mine that produced Europium, which was used to create the color red in cathode ray tube televisions. By that time, most of Nipton, including its trading post and Spanish-style hotel, had also closed.
Jerry Freeman and Roxanne Lang in Nipton.
Geologist Jerry Freeman had been prospecting in the hills, looking at tailings from old mines to try to find ore for new ones. Leaving a pickup truck in Nipton, he took the train from Los Angeles on weekends.
Freeman found an old gold claim to purchase. What used to be known as the Clansman claim would become the new Morning Star Mine. Vanderbilt Gold, which Freeman co-owned with John F. Jordan and others, acquired the property in 1964 and raised money to open up mining operations as gold prices skyrocketed in the late 1970s. After the precipitous decline of gold prices in the ’80s, Freeman left the gold business but he never forgot about Nipton, which was then for sale for $200,000.
Lang, his wife, wasn’t quite as enamored. She says Nipton’s then boarded-up storefronts “made me tired.” Her husband wasn’t deterred. Freeman found it appealing in a romantic, ghost town kind of way. Lang says that one day, she was in Malibu with their eight-month-old when, “He called me and told me that he had bought Nipton. ”
A couple years later, they moved there and sent their child to the 20-student school in Baker — a town best known for its 134-foot thermometer — where Freeman served on the school board and Lang worked part-time as a speech pathologist.
The couple did their best to turn Nipton into a tourist destination, looking for revenue from any source. They sold California lottery tickets to nearby Nevadans, offered whole-town filming permits (Breakdown, a 1997 Kurt Russell thriller, was partially filmed in Nipton) and hosted workshops by pickup artist Vince Kelvin. They rented out the cafe to different vendors, and it became locally famous in the late 2000s for the Bill Burger, which Salter described to me as a hamburger wrapped in a tortilla, kind of like Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme.
Freeman and Lang made money by renting RVs to workers at the nearby Brightsource solar energy plant, which went online in 2013, and letting out hotel rooms, mostly to European tourists obsessed with the California desert.
Teepees dot the desert landscape in Nipton. The structures were part of a venture to attract tourists to the city for overnight stays but the canvas on the teepees is now in tatters.
Crystal Wysong and Bruce Kroeze, who used to live in Los Angeles and now live in Joshua Tree, got married in Nipton in 2014. High school sweethearts who had reconnected on Facebook after 30 years apart, they had fallen in love on road trips through the California desert and briefly considered living in the Mojave National Preserve. On one of their first trips together, they had visited Nipton, where they eventually became friends with the Latinx Seventh-Day Adventist couple who ran the restaurant.
One weekend, Wysong called the general store to rent a room and asked the employee if he knew anyone who could marry them. The employee asked the “other Roxanne” (Nipton had two) and, with a single phone call, Wysong had planned her wedding. The other Roxanne officiated and a fellow Nipton hotel guest served as a witness at the tiny wedding. “It was our style of romance, if 60-year-olds can be romantic,” Wysong says. She hasn’t been back since American Green bought it. The town’s just not the same, she says.
The Whistle Stop Cafe and Saloon in Nipton, California.
Some 20 rent-paying residents call Nipton home. Most of them are here to get away from it all.
Jim Eslinger, who has lived here since 2009, says he couldn’t survive in a city anymore after getting used to life in Nipton. He refers to himself as Nipton’s mayor, a title that Lang would like him to stop using since the unincorporated town has no elected officials. He’s a Nipton lifer and the “coolest long haired hippie freak in town,” he tells me as he cackles at the description.
Jim Eslinger, who likes to refer to himself as the mayor of Nipton, poses for a photo.
Eslinger has worked for all of the enterprises that have come through town, doing all sorts of jobs from “housemaid to maintenance to working in the store,” he says. He can’t imagine leaving when the town changes hands. “Whoever buys it will have their own dreams, and as long as I get to live here forever, I don’t care. Whoever gets the town gets me with it.”
It’s a waiting game until Nipton changes hands again. Lang wants $3 million for the 80 acres that comprise the town, a figure that seems both completely reasonable to those who love the place and ridiculous to those who couldn’t imagine living there.
The last couple of months haven’t yielded a buyer. Lang attributes American Green’s 2017 purchase of Nipton, in part, to an article about the town published in Sunset magazine. She hopes some fresh publicity will bring another offer. “It’s a charming place because it has a lot of space,” she says, “the perfect covid place” to get away from everything.
Maybe a new Jerry Freeman with utopian idealism and deep pockets will ride into town. Maybe they’ll find a way to reinvent Nipton as a tourist destination. Maybe they’ll highlight its scenic panoramas and wide open spaces or play to the New Age crowd with sound baths and crystal witch retreats or lead Big City folks on survivalist expeditions. Anything to spark a new boom, one that’ll last keep the town chugging along until the next bust.
The Seven Magic Mountains art installation by Swiss artist Ugo Rondinone stands more than 30 feet high in the Ivanpah Valley on May 22, 2017.
A Vegas Circus Paid $2.5 Million to Buy a Town in the Mojave Desert
A Vegas Circus Paid $2.5 Million to Buy a Town in the Mojave Desert
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The Nipton Trading Post
Mark Boster/Getty Images
- Spiegelworld bought the town of Nipton, California in 2021 for $2.5 million in cash.
- The town has a population of 25 people and sits on the eastern edge of the Mojave Desert.
- The new owners have removed about 250 tons of debris to create a “global headquarters” for the circus.
Spiegelworld, a Vegas circus known for its raunchy routines, purchased the town of Nipton, California in 2021 for $2.
5 million, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The entrance to Nipton, California, a tony unincorporated town near the Nevada border and on the edge of the Mojave National Preserve.
The town is about an hour southwest of Las Vegas and includes approximately 80 acres of land on the edge the Mojave Desert.
Nipton was previously owned by Jerry Freeman and Roxanne Lang, a California couple who purchased the town for about $200,000 in the 1980s.
Cannabis items for sale at the Nipton Trading Post.
The Washington Post/Getty Images
The sales history for the town is a bit murky.
In 2017, American Green, a cannabis company, acquired the town, along a working solar farm, for nearly $5 million with hopes of turning it into a destination for marijuana enthusiasts and influencers.
The following year, American Green abandoned its ambitious plans for the town and sold the property to a Scottsdale-based energy company for $7.1 million, the Los Angeles Times reported. Other groups like a religious cult, a cryptocurrency enthusiasts, and investors who wanted to build a train line to Las Vegas have also tried to buy the property, the Wall Street Journal reported.
However, the Wall Street Journal also reported that Freeman and Lang were the ones who sold Nipton to Spiegelworld.
Ross Mollison, Spiegelworld’s Australian founder, has purchased the town in hopes of turning it into the circus’ global headquarters.
Ross Mollison (center) with cast members of Spiegelworld’s “Absinthe” production.
Bryan Steffy/Getty Images
He told The Journal that Nipton’s remoteness reminds him of being in Australia.
However, he did caution that there may be a limited scope to their plans.
“I don’t want to build a resort,” Mollison told the Wall Street Journal. “This is a very high-end circus. At the same time it’s filled with character and personality.”
Spiegelworld’s latest show is called “Absinthe” and transports viewers into an old-timey yet futuristic world inside Caesars Palace, complete with the scantily-clad performers that Las Vegas is known for.
The Green Fairy character (Left) and chair stack artist Maxim Popazov perform during the “Absinthe” show at Caesars Palace on the Las Vegas Strip
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Admission for the self-described “rowdy” and “raunchy” show ranges between $129 to $169 per ticket.
Purchasing the town hasn’t come without its challenges.
Piles of debris at the town landfill dump in the Mojave Desert.
Mollison told The Journal that he brought in two prop builders who lived nearby, Alex and Frank Strebel, to take care of the town.
The Strebels, who operate their Elite Creations, LLC businsess out of Las Vegas, said they have removed an estimated 250 tons of debris from the town, including a rusted rail car water tank and several disintegrating mattresses.
Mollison told The Journal that he and his team have several ideas for transforming the town.
Walkway to the Burning Man.
Andrew Wyatt/Burning Man
One idea is to create a “permanent Burning Man,” referring to the annual music and art festival held in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert, which is about 600 miles north of Nipton. Other ideas include creating a skydiving park and making accommodations in Nipton’s underground mining bunkers.
Despite the challenges ahead for Mollison, he told The Journal that his team “will not fail” in their efforts to revive Nipton because they are “relentless” and they “love this place.”
Spiegelworld performers walking to Nipton
Courtesy of Spiegelworld
Mollison will also get the help of Jim Eslinger, a local who has been the longtime unofficial “mayor” of the town. “They’re awesome people and what I hear is they have some really good shows,” Eslinger told The Journal.
Why, why and how did I buy an apartment in California? / Habr
The crisis in the real estate market provided an excellent opportunity to exchange a 42-meter odnushka in Kurkino (a city near Moscow) for a 100-meter two-story apartment with a fireplace, two bathrooms and bedrooms on the shore of a pond with wild ducks and geese, squirrels and hummingbirds, sequoias, outdoor pool and two tennis courts. All this splendor is located on the territory of a closed condominium in the beautiful city of San Jose in Northern California. In a city that is considered the unofficial capital of Silicon Valley and which has 300 sunny days a year.
How is this possible, you ask?
Very simple. In the United States, there is a real, from the point of view of classical economics, market, and therefore the concept of supply and demand works as it is written in textbooks. As a result of the crisis, many were unable to pay their mortgage payments and lost their homes.
For 3 years of the crisis, real estate in the United States has fallen in price by half. Prices dropped to 2002 levels.
I looked at about 40 options before I found an apartment that cost 2 times more the year before.
The average cost of renting an apartment in Silicon Valley is $2,241 per month.
When purchasing a property similar to the one described above, you pay monthly:
$200-350 – association fee, which includes payments for water, use of the pool, tennis court, fitness center for maintenance of the residential complex, mowing lawns, bushes, cleaning the pond, planting flowers and uprooting trees, repairing the roof and walls in case of breakage. $200-300 for electricity and gas, $200-300 property tax – property tax, paid 2 times a year in equal installments.
Total, no more than $600-950 per month.
You can rent out your living room and spare bedrooms to two or three roommates, cover all your utility bills and earn some more.
In addition, investing in real estate in the United States is considered the most reliable and profitable compared to other countries. You can take a loan from the Bank with a 70% discount on the value of your home. You can always sell your property and get a large amount of cash. If your business is related to the Internet or software development, you do not need to rent an office.
How to find a profitable option and buy a property that will grow in value?
1. You must have at least half the value of the property you intend to purchase. The Bank will give you the other half. American lenders don’t care where you live in the US or in Russia. It only affects the percentage at which you will be given money. If you have the full amount, just great, it will be easier to buy a better option, since most property buyers buy property on credit and priority is given to those who have cash.
2. You need to find a very good agent who lives in the US and has specialized in buying and selling real estate for individuals for at least 10 years.
I was lucky, I found a specialist. My agent has been living in Los Angeles for over 20 years and thanks to her, I was able to become the proud owner of the apartment described above, despite the fact that there were three lines of people who wanted to buy. Get in touch, I’ll give you a contact.
3. You need to be patient and not buy the first options offered and not listen to an agent who says that it is impossible to buy a normal apartment, apartment or house in Silicon Valley for less than 300 thousand dollars. Can!
4. While you are looking for a property, you yourself have to work hard. You must subscribe to the redfin.com mailing list, specify the properties you are looking for and carefully study each option.
5. Keep a log of viewed objects. To do this, I used the usual excel file, in which I made a simple plate:
1. Year of construction (not older than 1985)
2. Price ($150-250 thousand)
3. Area (850-1100 sq. ft.)
4. Number of bedrooms (minimum 2)
5. Number of bathrooms (minimum 2)
6. Type of heating (central heating and air conditioning)
7. Association fee ($200-300 per month)
8. Property tax fee ($2500-3000 per year)
9. Where is the washing machine and dryer in the house or on the street (in the house)
10. Garage (minimum 1 parking space)
11. Number of floors (2)
12. Swimming pool/fitness center (swimming pool required, tennis courts or fitness preferred. The cost of use must be included in the Ass. Fee)
13. Distance from motorways. (cars should not be heard)
14. Cost before the crisis. (the bigger the difference the better)
15. At what price were similar properties sold in the same area in the last 3 months. (to understand a lot or a little they ask)
16. Condition. (in order to understand how much you will have to invest in repairs)
If you pay attention only to the specified parameters, then a few minutes will be enough for you to understand whether this object is interesting to you or not.
Write all similar objects to a file and set the viewing time. While watching, take pictures and write down the features, then it will be easier for you to navigate. After watching, mark the options that you like the most. Select 10 options, look at them again and ask the agent to make an offer for at least 3-4 different properties.
If you work with an experienced agent, the selection and purchase of real estate will take no more than 2-2.5 months. If you are looking for a property to live in, then it is better to be here all this time, since it is difficult to notice all the nuances from photographs.
If you are not going to live in the purchased property, but are planning to buy it as an investment, then you may be able to choose the best option simply by comparing properties according to the above parameters.
In any case, it’s worth flying in and seeing at least 10-15 objects in order to have an idea of what is good and what is bad in the real estate market from the point of view of Americans.
And finally, 2 warnings!
1. Do not associate short sales with deals.
2. Never buy mobile and detached houses.
I sincerely wish you all success.
There will be questions, do not hesitate, feel free to contact.
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