You probably need a special kind of vision to see what Charlie Fox sees when he looks at the property he recently purchased at 1800 Industrial Road. To the untrained eye, it might look like a run-down mix of light industrial warehouses and office space that have seen better days — but probably not in the last 40 years.
What Fox sees is a future filled with galleries, creative businesses and a building that is as much a community as it is a workplace. He calls it Downtown Spaces.
This would not be the first time Fox has transformed a property. One of his previous ventures, the Bunkhouse Saloon at 124 S. 11th St., went from a decaying neighborhood joint to a venue where some of the valley’s finest musicians cut their teeth before emerging on the national stage.
“When I bought it in 2004, it was a pretty dodgy area,” Fox said. “We kind of started the entertainment district down there. The Killers played there before they were anything.”
When Fox came to town, he started a successful commercial landscaping business. He ran it out of a yard on Blue Diamond Road until the developers of Mountain’s Edge made him a generous offer on the land.
“Property on the outskirts of town was going crazy,” Fox said. “But nobody wanted to be in the inner core of the city. They were practically giving the stuff away.”
He bought a lot on Bonanza Road and moved his landscaping business there. He began buying property and fixing it up, including several Fremont Street motels. When the Downtown Project began buying up property, Fox sold the Bunkhouse Saloon and began looking for the next place he saw as potential.
“When I first came to town, I saw these great buildings on Industrial,” Fox said. “They have a lot of character. I remember this one (1800 Industrial Road) in particular. When I found out it was for sale, I was very excited.”
Fox does not plan to tear out the mid-century modern exterior but instead plans to add pieces to it that will enhance the look. His plans also include converting an old screw factory on the back end to Naked City Studios, with 18 artist spaces clustered around a central lobby/gallery space. He plans to keep rents low, with smaller spaces starting at $200.
“I have a good relationship with a lot of musicians and artists that I knew were unhappy with a lot of the things that were going on downtown with Fremont Street pricing and plans,” Fox said. “I didn’t realize how much support I would get. There’s a real buzz within the community. I get calls about space nearly every day.”
Fox hopes to have 40 spaces available within a month or two and around 80 when the project is complete. He hopes to plan monthly events at a time other than First Friday at Downtown Spaces, with art openings and bands in the back parking lot. He does not see anything negative about the scrap metal place or the busy railroad tracks that run right behind where he wants to have a stage.
“The trains will be rolling by in the middle of the show,” Fox said. “Isn’t that great?”
Fox has had no trouble finding tenants who share his vision of the funky charm the location offers. Several have already moved in as construction continues around them.
Tenants include a burlesque dance studio, a recording studio, a comic book publisher, graphic designers and more.
Ryan Reason and Jennifer Burkart are converting a two-room, 1,000-square-foot area into Square Shooting, a creative photography studio.
“It was important to both Jen and me that we had a place downtown. We’re both people who like to hang out downtown and do all kinds of things,” Reason said. “But we didn’t need a direct First Friday or East Fremont connection. We don’t need the foot traffic.”
Reason and Burkart specialize in commercial and advertising photography, shooting food, beverages, people and architecture. Many of their clients are hotels and resorts.
“We also do a lot of lifestyle photos for local and national magazines,” Reason said. “We’re especially good at people, and we’d like to get into more portraits. That’s what we’re setting the studio up for. Right now, it’s just a couple of cheap chairs and desks, but in 30 to 60 days, we’ll have it all operational.”
Reason likes the ground-floor location that makes it easier to haul in heavy equipment, and he and Burkart love the view of the Stratosphere. The dive bar across the street doesn’t hurt, either.
“The Hard Hat (Lounge) was a selling point for us, as well,” Reason said. “We have a special fondness for that place.”
Fox recently became a part owner of the Hard Hat Lounge and has plans to remodel it but keep several of the features that highlight the bar’s unique and long history. A 1962 mural of working-class men gambling graces the wall behind the bar.
He plans to add a small stage for intimate performances.
For more information on Downtown Spaces, visit dtspaces.com.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.