The apartment complexes, strip malls and other businesses along Martin Luther King Boulevard between Alta Drive and Charleston Boulevard will be the property of the Nevada Department of Transportation by this time next year.
The people who live and work there need to find new places to go. The department is beginning the process of buying all that property so they can tear it down and Interstate 15 can be widened and new onramps can be built.
Though the process can seem like a straightforward one, where the state pays fair market value to a landowner, the owner buys a new property and everything moves on, it can be more complicated than that.
Melissa Finnell, for example, works at the Terrible’s gas station on the corner of Charleston and Martin Luther King. It’s going to be torn down.
“I guess I’m going to have to start looking for a job now,” she said Wednesday.
Finnell and dozens of others attended a meeting held by the department to let them know how the next several months will unfold.
Officials said federal law guides what they can and cannot do when it comes to taking over private property for public use.
The property owners will be paid fair market value, officials said. And they, as well as apartment tenants, will receive help finding a new place to live or a new location for their businesses. Tenants who cannot find adequate housing at a similar price could receive a subsidy to cover a higher cost for as long as four years.
The billion-dollar project will remake I-15 from the Spaghetti Bowl to Sahara Avenue. That stretch of road, almost four miles long, is the busiest in Nevada, carrying 270,000 cars a day. There are an average of four crashes every day.
The reconstruction will include a connector between the HOV lanes on U.S. Highway 95 to the express lanes on I-15, full reconstruction of the Charleston Boulevard interchange, and new onramps.
Some of the ramps will crowd out the structures along Martin Luther King.
William Jacobs owns La Cabaña, a Mexican restaurant on Martin Luther King just south of Alta.
He features low-priced lunches and caters almost exclusively to the people who work in the area, he said. Though it has been there for 20 years, he bought it in 2006.
“Most of the people who come to our place can walk to us,” he said.
If he is forced to move, and he knows he will be, he wants to stay nearby. But, he said the city of Las Vegas rezoned the area a few years ago. His restaurant was grandfathered in. Now, he’s afraid he won’t be allowed to reopen anywhere nearby.
If that happens, he said, “We’re basically gone.”
“We don’t want to move,” he said. “There’s no commercial property nearby to open a restaurant.”
Officials told him they would work with him and perhaps with the city to see what they could do.
Finnell, the woman who works at the gas station that will be torn down, said she also lives nearby. She recently lived in one of the apartment buildings that will be demolished, but moved a few weeks ago to another one nearby that will remain.
She does not own a car; she walks to work and takes the bus elsewhere.
Now, she’s not sure what to do. She doesn’t make enough money to buy a car or to live in a more expensive part of town.
Cole Mortensen, the project manager for the transportation department, said workers will begin collecting data on how many people will be affected. The area that the department will buy and demolish runs between Alta and Charleston and between Martin Luther King and Desert Lane, about 200 feet west.
They’ve already demolished most of what’s on the east side of Martin Luther King, including a public storage facility.
Transportation officials said the property owners they talked to Wednesday should expect to be bought out by next summer.
Construction on the project should start in 2015 and could be finished three years later.
Contact reporter Richard Lake at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0307.