An architect is ready to invest his money, and his company, into downtown Henderson.
The move could signal that the longstanding plans to redevelop Henderson's Water Street District — plans that came crashing to a halt when the recession hit in 2007 — might be getting back into gear.
Windom Kimsey, president and chief operating officer Tate Snyder Kimsey, is moving his 30 or so architects and support staff from their suburban business complex off Valle Verde Parkway and Sunset Road to Water Street next year. He and several city officials held a ceremonial groundbreaking on Dec. 10 at 314 Water St., but construction of the two-story building won't begin until 2016.
Kimsey hopes the move will kick-start a migration of businesses to the historic street and provide the state's second most populous city with an urban atmosphere that it has never seen before.
"Henderson needs a downtown," Kimsey said. "People need a place to go here. I hope we're kicking it off."
But Kimsey and his architects aren't alone in the quest to transform downtown Henderson.
The design of Kimsey's building calls for his employees to take up a second story. On the first floor, though, will be Makers and Finders' first expansion location since opening its doors in downtown Las Vegas last year.
"I'm stoked. I'm beyond excited," Makers and Finders co-owner Josh Molina said. "I've always just adored the character of Water Street."
When talking downtown Henderson, everything starts with the historic Water Street.
"Its really the original city center for Henderson," said Barbra Coffee, director of economic development and redevelopment.
The street, located off Lake Mead Parkway about a mile-and-a-half from U.S. Highway 95 and the 215 Beltway interchange, already has several staples of a typical downtown: City Hall, the courthouse and the jail. But like the street itself, the houses bordering Water Street date back to World War II and still look more like part of a suburban neighborhood than a downtown.
Even though it was considered the central area of Henderson, Coffee said the area "wasn't designed to be an elaborate downtown."
So convincing people that the area could become a bustling downtown district could prove a daunting task.
"People don't even call it downtown," Kimsey said. "We need to own it as a concept, as an idea."
Kimsey, who moved to Southern Nevada from Chicago about 25 years ago, has always loved the urban lifestyle.
"We would walk everywhere for lunch, walk to this, walk to that," Kimsey said. "The idea that we can walk to things has always appealed to me."
And Kimsey wants to bring a splash of that lifestyle to downtown Henderson. But that can't happen without changing the suburban mindset of most Henderson residents, where "everyone gets in their car after work and drives," Kimsey added.
City officials have talked extensively since the mid-2000s about revitalizing the Water Street District. But when the economy tanked in 2007, those plans went to the back burner.
Plans since then have come and gone, with the only tangible change coming in 2011 when the city narrowed the street in order to widen the sidewalk.
With the economy slowly bouncing back and two new buildings — Kimsey's building and Lovelady Brewing Company — in the construction phase, Henderson is seeing a "renewed momentum" in the redevelopment of Water Street, Coffee said.
"We have to refocus our efforts back into the downtown and create reasons for people to come back again," Coffee added.
Kimsey said bringing more restaurants and bars that employees who work on Water Street could walk to after their shifts have ended could go a long way in doing just that.
And many, including Kimsey and Coffee, are hoping businesses such as Lovelady Brewing and Makers and Finders can be the catalyst.
For Molina, the expansion to Water Street comes full circle. The 26-year-old entrepreneur graduated from Nevada State High School when its campus was on the street.
"I think there's a lot of people in Henderson that want more, and they deserve more," Molina said.
But Water Street brought more than just nostalgia for Molina and his coffee ventures. It brought opportunity.
"It made sense for us because we kind of refer to ourselves as an urban coffee bar," Molina said. "We want to bring that communal, creative energy to Henderson."
Much like Molina, Richard Lovelady saw Water Street as a perfect fit for his brewery.
Lovelady said he and his four brothers didn't want to follow the recent trend of breweries in the city.
"We all kind of wanted to go into a neighborhood," Lovelady said. "We wanted to be part of the community that we are in."
About a year and a half ago, Lovelady and his brothers started looking at Water Street as a possible location. After working out some details with city officials, who he said "bent over backwards to get us in there," the plans were finalized. The brewery is expected to open next year, though Lovelady hasn't committed to a firm date yet.
The opportunity to open up shop on Water Street, and to be part of a redevelopment project, was too much for Lovelady to pass up.
"Breweries have been on the forefront of redevelopment," Lovelady said, adding that he hopes his 6,000-square-foot brewery can do the same for downtown.
"It's still unknown, kind of virgin territory," he said. "Its someplace where you can start and really make your mark and be part of the community."