LAS VEGAS — The downtown area saw a major speculation boom several years ago, but is it possible to make the downtrodden area a destination once again?
Downtown is looking to be a thriving pedestrian area in the city and with the addition of Zappos.com, the new Las Vegas City Hall and the Smith Center, this could become a reality within the next years.
With the closure of the Sahara, discussed in this article, the north end of the Las Vegas Strip now will end at the Riviera. That creates two separate and distinct areas of Las Vegas: The glitzy Las Vegas Strip area and the downtown Las Vegas area. Downtown now has the opportunity to create a complete transformation from the once low budget, seedy area of Las Vegas, to the upscale young business person destination of Las Vegas.
The long term plan for downtown Las Vegas is more residential condominiums and more shopping areas in and around the area. The failure of Neonopolis, a movie theater and small mall project, may have been because the project was ahead of its time.
The location and the idea of a thriving mall with a movie theater on the end of the Fremont Street Experience is a good one. The problem with this project was the ownership. They did not anticipate the need to aggressively market and drive customers to their location. The Las Vegas Sun reported many of the ownership companies woes in an article dated May 7, 2009.
As I walked through the empty Neonopolis mall last weekend, I saw broken glass and boarded up buildings. If this location had been aggressive enough to cater to locals and visitors alike it may have been a thriving contributor to life in the downtown area. Instead it sits vacant. It is not producing any tax revenue and is becoming a blight on the end of an otherwise burgeoning area.
With the addition of the many new buildings being built downtown it will become essential to add a high scale shopping element to the area to bring in the young upwardly mobile residents. Dedication to completing the condo high rises and a commitment to bringing in big business to the downtown area can lead to completely self sufficient model community. People can walk to work from their high rise condo and if need be take the bus from the nearby Regional Transportation Center.
The next two years are of critical importance to this part of town and the reinvention of downtown. A truly pedestrian city is within the city of Las Vegas grasp and they can become a model for cities across the country.
Todd Jacobs is a 15-year resident of Las Vegas with extensive knowledge of the city.