Las Vegas and North Las Vegas are similar but different, neighbors yet independent. The two cities are currently building dueling city halls, and both projects promise to make big civic statements.

There are more similarities. Both are pursuing LEED silver, and they have the same general contractor: Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. of Baltimore, which declined to comment about the projects because of a company no media policy.

The city of Las Vegas broke ground on its new downtown digs this year. The $146.2-million project is a public-private partnership, lease-purchase agreement between Cleveland-based developer Forest City Enterprises and the city, which enables the city to gain valuable infrastructure at a lowest cost with flexible repayment terms.

The eight-story, 308,990-sq-ft City Hall is bound by First and Main streets and Lewis and Clark avenues. The steel-and-glass skinned structure on 2.71 acres will have a 500-seat chamber council, 250,000 sq ft of office space and public exhibit areas. Las Vegas-based JMA is the executive architect, with Elkus Manfredi Architects, Boston, as design consultant.

The new building will replace the 37-year-old city hall complex at 400 E. Stewart Ave., which needs an estimated $1.5 million in new equipment and upgrades.

“The new city hall is the lynchpin in a downtown redevelopment plan that will create thousands of jobs, bringing billions in private investment and millions in new tax revenue to the city,” says Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman in a statement. “(It’s a) catalyst for four major mixed-use redevelopment projects that will bring 13,441 new permanent jobs to the city of Las Vegas, $4.1 billion in private investment and $16 million to $20 million in new tax revenue.”

The development touts the latest in sustainable building technology. The project, for instance, is an adapt reuse of an otherwise blighted site. It replaces the former three-story, 100-room Queen of Hearts Hotel at 19 E. Lewis Ave., which was razed in February. New York-based LVI Environmental Services Inc. was the demolition contractor. The 46-year-old Queen of Hearts has been shuttered since 2007.

The building features a 40,000-sq-ft public plaza along Clark Street with 33 solar trees that double as pedestrian shade awnings. The structures, which vary from 40 to 60 ft in height, will generate 50kW of photovoltaic electricity.

The 135-ft-long building additionally has 7,000 sq ft of photovoltaic roof-mounted panels. The solar trees and panels are expected to reduce the city’s annual energy costs by more than $500,000 and cut its overall carbon footprint by 2,348 metric tons.

Other sustainable features include low-volatile-organic-compound glues, paint and carpeting for improved indoor air quality. There are low-flow plumbing fixtures, drought-tolerant landscaping and a rainwater collection system. Other green initiatives consist of recycling 75% of the debris created during construction and using building materials with recycled content.

The most dramatic building feature is shade fins that line the exterior fa�ade, meant to symbolize water and its role in shaping Las Vegas with Hoover Dam. The fins are wired with light-emitting diodes that create a colorful show.

“The mayor wanted to create a dynamic civic space,” says Thomas Schoeman, JMA president. “The fins are completely programmable and powered by the building’s photovoltaic panels. Solar power and green building were an important part of the project and reflect the city’s future.”

North Las Vegas, meanwhile, began work on its $142-million, 210,400-sq-ft City Hall at 2250 Las Vegas Blvd. North in June 2009. The project, designed by Denver-based Fentress Architects, calls for a steel-framed, nine-story building clad with Giallo Veneziano granite, a light tan, white and black-flecked material from Brazil.

“The design’s color palette borrows from the native desert environment for its sand-colored granite and the sunny climate for its blue-sky glass,” says Matt Popowski, Fentress’s public relations coordinator. “The building is a visual beacon for efforts to increase downtown revitalization and reflects the city’s commitment by providing a catalyst.”

The city sold construction bonds during the height of Southern Nevada’s real estate boom in 2006. The subsequent economic downturn has enabled the city to negotiate low pricing on several project items.