Jim Nelson

Aside from his reputation as the creative force behind the Universal CityWalk project, Jim has experience in real estate development, design, construction and finance. He has worked on project planning and prepared appraisals, market studies and financial projections on major projects around the world. A visionary thinker, Jim has the rare gift of being both creative and pragmatic. Highly perceptive, Jim gets things done.
Jim started VisionWorks in 1995 as a one-man real estate consulting firm. Jim acts as a strategic planner, design director and team leader for the various projects ranging from large-scale master plans to retail stores.

Currently, Jim is working on programming a destination City in China. Prior to that he worked on the repositioning of the Trump Plaza Casino in Atlantic City. Other recent projects included restoring a 100 year old ship yard in Maine and doing the pre development of a major mixed use project in Downtown Los Angeles. Prior to September 11th, Jim served as the Master Planner for the International Gateway of the Americas in San Diego. The project was a 1.4 million square foot cross border center that would have created a world-class gateway between Tijuana and San Diego. The master plan consisted of unique retail, offices, a transit center, hotel, convention center and a pedestrian bridge connecting the project to Avenida Revolucion in Tijuana.

In the late 90s, Jim worked with Newhall Land in Valencia, California to create a master plan for the 1,000 acres surrounding Magic Mountain next to the 5 freeway. Jim also acted as advisor to the Mandalay Bay Resort Group for planning a new entertainment district between the Mandalay and Luxor in Los Vegas. In a 1996 in a joint venture with Spencer Gifts, Jim and Richard Altuna created the “Glow” store concept (glow in the dark products), which grew to over 12 locations with some units grossing $1,000 per foot. Other projects during that time period included an Indian casino and a themed truck stop.

Jim's background before starting his own practice is wide and unique:

Universal CityWalk - Universal City, California 1988 to 1995
Jim's role in the creation of CityWalk and the subsequent revolution in entertainment real estate began in 1983, when he envisioned the development of a city center on top of the hill at Universal City. That vision included an entertainment spine that would be a salute to Hollywood Boulevard. As Director of Planning and Development for the MCA/Universal Development Company, he led the planning effort that resulted in the widely acclaimed Universal CityWalk project winner of the prestigious ICSC award for Innovative Design & Construction. Not only has CityWalk been spectacularly successful, it has become a prototype for entertainment design and has effected development projects worldwide.

John Portman and Associates - Atlanta, Georgia 1983 to 1986
As the Southern California Associate of the firm that reinvented entertaining hotels, Jim learned the methods of the world's leading "showman" of design and development first hand. He was active in the planning and development of various projects in Southern California. By this experience, Jim was able to transit from banking back to the world of architecture and construction.

Bank of America - London, San Francisco and Los Angeles 1977 to 1982.
Group Vice President, World Banking Division. Responsibilities included Strategic Market Planning and member of the bank's General Loan Committee. Jim also served as head of Construction and Real Estate Financing for Europe, the Middle East and Africa. As such, he was responsible for the complete conception and organization of Bank of America's international construction activities. Jim's success can be measured by the $1.7 billion, loss free, portfolio he built around $8 billion worth of construction projects.

Citibank - New York City; Beirut; and Jeddah, Saudi Arabia 1974 to 1977.
Manager of Citibank's lending activities to the construction industry in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Responsibilities included loans and guarantees relating to over 2 billion dollars worth of construction. Previous assignment: International Manager of Citibank's Real Estate Consulting Group. Achievements included: Establishment of first specialized construction industry group at Citibank and the writing of Citibank Credit Manual for the construction industry.

Paolo Riani Associates - New York and Florence 1972 to 1974.
Managing partner of the Hampden Country Club.
Project built on budget and featured first use of reflective glass and aluminum/foam panels that lead to significant operating savings. Additionally, project was a critical success ("Architectural Record" 2/77 & "Domus" 9/75).

McKee-Berger-Mansueto/Omnidata - New York City 1971 to 1973.
Management Consultant and Systems Analyst specializing in the construction industry. Worked on Feasibility Studies and Cost Estimating.

Executive Program - Stanford University, 1982
Masters in Business (MBA) - Columbia University, 1974.
Graduate Degree in Architecture - Columbia University, 1974.

Active in his community, Jim has been an Elected Representative to the Los Angeles City Neighborhood Council, Board Member of Laurel Canyon Association and has served as President for three terms. Jim has served in various other civic organizations including the Board of Electors, the Hillside Federation, Hollywood Heritage and acted as the Chairman of the Economic Development Committee of the Los Angeles Conservancy's Broadway Initiative. Additionally, Jim has lead efforts for needed legislation to Improve and Preserve the Quality of Life in the Hills of Los Angeles.

In the1989 Metropolitan Home magazine, Jim won the Best New Home of the Year Award for the Hollywood Hills home he built for himself.

A good insight into Jim's expertise is an Interview published in Shopping Center World: Click to Read Article
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