Nordstrom Fail: One sign of Las Vegas' hard times is this failed Nordstrom store and accompanying shopping center that never advanced beyond the skeletal stage.

By Jennifer Ablan

Las Vegas had become the poster child of what many had pegged as the biggest casino during the real-estate boom, all which was engineered by cheap credit and a yearning for owning a piece of the American dream.

The economic toll of the financial crisis swept through towns and communities in terms of home foreclosures, devastated neighborhoods and half-built shopping centers and office complexes.

But on my December visit to Mountains Edge and South Summerlin — large master-planned communities, not far from the Las Vegas strip, for example – I saw several bulldozers doing work in preparing the sites to build houses, after years of sitting idle.

There are signs of hope and renewal with new construction projects ramping up in Sin City and investors snapping up foreclosed single-family homes, rehabbing them and renting them out. The market for foreclosed homes is getting a lot of attention these days, as there are signs the multi-year plunge in housing values is in a bottoming process and Americans become more of a renter nation than an ownership one—at least for the time being.