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‘It’s pretty insane’: Businesses hope for redevelopment in Vegas’ busy Chinatown

Updated April 18, 2024 - 10:59 pm

Finding parking at Shanghai Plaza in Las Vegas’ Chinatown is a daily ordeal for the co-owners of the Manga Hole.

“You could drive around for 10 to 20 minutes in the parking lot and not get a space,” said Amber Plyler, who co-owns the anime and manga shop with her husband Brendan Heady. “People will cut you off, one of our employees had their car keyed because they stole somebody’s parking space. … It’s pretty insane.”

While business has generally been good at Manga Hole since opening nearly three years ago, Heady said the parking situation plus hectic traffic on Spring Mountain Road has made it difficult for both tourists and locals to get to the store. Locals make up about 70 percent of the Manga Hole’s customers, he said.

“If the people are local, they still need somewhere to park, and if they’re tourists, they still need to get over here,” Heady said.

Concerns around transportation and parking in Chinatown Vegas aren’t unique to Shanghai Plaza as businesses in nearby shopping centers express similar thoughts on improvements. Chinatown makes up more than 3 miles on and around Spring Mountain Road near the Strip, and is delineated by Asian-inspired architecture and statues with an array of Asian, from Chinese to Korean, restaurants and shops. But some non-Asian shops and restaurants also are located in the same area.

Clark County recently allocated $200,000 to hire consultants to create a redevelopment plan for the Spring Mountain corridor, which could include signage, road improvements, among other items. More details from the county are expected this month. In the meantime, the Las Vegas Review-Journal spoke to property and business owners in the area to ask what they want to see in redevelopment plans.

“The whole Chinatown district is kind of starting to become a victim of its own success,” said Jeffrey Fine, the president and CEO of the LEV Group, which operates the Golden Tiki and the Double Zero Pie & Pub restaurant in the Center at Spring Mountain complex. “It’s getting harder to have access for locals.”

Fine said the area needs more parking spaces, and the speed limit on the roadways through Chinatown needs to be reduced.

Heady said transportation and parking could be improved in Chinatown and thinks the plans for the Boring Co. to add two Vegas Loop sites to the area can help, but they won’t be a perfect solution.

Jenny Chai, the owner of two restaurant concepts, Mr. BBQ and Mama Chai’s, in a building next to Shanghai Plaza, also said she would like to see more transportation options added in Chinatown to improve access for tourists and locals.

“I think that the biggest challenge of having a business is how to get the residents to come down here because it is so close to the Strip, and then also to get the tourists to come as well,” she said.

Coupled with that, Plyler said the redevelopment should also include widening sidewalks and even adding pedestrian bridges on Spring Mountain Road to make the area more pedestrian friendly.

“I don’t even know why people cross Spring Mountain anyway, it’s dangerous and I wouldn’t do it,” she said.

What is in the works

Clark County Commissioner Justin Jones, who represents the area, has said the corridor redevelopment plan is being prepared because the community has said more investment is needed.

“We hope to look at the existing conditions and potential new opportunities to improve this area with a focus on placemaking and placekeeping,” he said in a previous statement to the Review-Journal.

This could mean new signage and wayfinding and improving or reimaging public spaces.

Further emphasizing the Chinatown’s presence with more placemaking efforts could boost tourism to the area, which already is a key part of the Manga Hole’s business, Plyler said.

“I think that people seek it out because if you’re from Nebraska, you don’t have a Chinatown,” she said.

Jones said the next step of the redevelopment plan is to gather more community feedback on what should be addressed. Jones also said a webpage and community survey dedicated to the Spring Mountain corridor’s redevelopment should be launched soon. A Clark County spokesperson said it could take 18 months to complete the redevelopment plan.

The Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce didn’t respond to requests for comment on the redevelopment plan.

Land up for sale and redevelopment

Even with concerns regarding traffic and parking, Chinatown real estate is performing well, said Jordan Schnitzer, president of Schnitzer Properties, which has owned the Center at Spring Mountain since 1997. He said there is “no problem” with finding tenants even as rents have increased over the years. His center boasts about 110 tenants.

Fine said Chinatown already offers “the best of both worlds” for restaurants and bars as it is a draw for both tourists and locals. He said more redevelopment could set off a wave of construction and further development.

And there’s available land to do that.

Eleven acres in the Spring Mountain corridor, between Valley View Boulevard and Procyon Street, is on the market for $32.5 million. Another roughly 7-acre site along Spring Mountain Road between Polaris Avenue and Procyon Street is listed for $19 million.

Both sites are being pitched as redevelopment opportunities that would be well-suited for high-rise developments that have retail space on the ground floor and either apartments or hotel rooms on the upper floors.

Local factors around traffic, parking and transportation aren’t stopping buyers from expressing interest in the 7-acre site listed by Marcus and Millichap, said Candace Bare, first vice president of investments for the brokerage.

“We actually think that this is one of the most prime properties available in Las Vegas right now,” she said.

The main concerns for buyers is the ability to raise capital for a large-scale project, interest rates and construction costs which aren’t unique to Las Vegas, Bare said.

Both Schnitzer and Fine said they prefer a hotel project on any open land in the Chinatown area as that can give tourists easier access to the area.

“I think anything is feasible,” Fine said. “I think that the market is just going to go up whatever they do there will just grow the market.”

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on X.

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