Looking back at ‘The Year of Downtown’ Las Vegas five years later

What a week of anniversaries! On Sunday, it was the fifth anniversary of the opening of City Hall, and tonight is The Smith Center for the Performing Arts’ fifth-anniversary concert. The Downtown Las Vegas projects — five years on — continue to attract millions to the heart of the city.

2012 was “The Year of Downtown” marked by the completion of projects that forever changed the Downtown skyline and experience: The Mob Museum, The Smith Center, a new City Hall and The Neon Museum.

While redevelopment of Downtown had been continuing for more than two decades, the opening of these transformational developments within months of one another gave area revitalization a much-needed boost.

They also played a significant role in fueling development, including restaurants and bars, and helped to establish the area as a center of culture for residents and visitors. The Mob Museum, which opened Feb. 14, 2012, has welcomed more than 1.3 million visitors from 36 countries.

The 310,000-square-foot City Hall was dedicated on March 5, 2012. The building hosts events, lectures, town halls and art shows and serves as a satellite campus for College of Southern Nevada, where night classes are offered.

That same week, The Smith Center opened March 10 to much fanfare and a sold-out audience of leaders, influencers and celebrities. Since then, The Smith Center has sold more than 2 million tickets to productions and hosted more than 1,900 performances, nearly 350,000 local students and teachers and 47 weddings.

It also is home of two of the city’s beloved and longtime performing arts groups, Nevada Ballet Theatre and Las Vegas Philharmonic, plus the popular Cabaret Jazz and Troesh Studio Theater.

After collecting neon signs from casinos and venues since 1996, The Neon Museum found a home on Las Vegas Boulevard North with a restored lobby shell from the defunct La Concha Motel serving as Visitor’s Center. This museum opened Oct. 27, 2012. Since then, The Neon Museum has welcomed nearly 100,000 visitors.

“The Year of Downtown was a remarkable period of our urban core’s ongoing revitalization,” said Mayor Carolyn Goodman, “the culmination of years of work by public and private entities, and it has marked the beginning of a new and historical era for the heart of our city.”

Downtown redevelopment has been a focus of the Las Vegas Economic and Urban Development Department for decades. Last year was marked by significant momentum, including the Las Vegas Medical District expansion and $50 million Federal Justice Tower.

Downtown also welcomed Eclipse Theaters, a 72,000-square-foot, three-level, multi-entertainment complex offering eight luxury movie theaters, ultra-lounge and two restaurants. The Promenade at Juhl, encompassing 20,000 square feet of retail space on the ground level of this Downtown residential neighborhood, now also breathes new life into the city’s urban area.

It is full speed ahead for LVMD, located between I-15 and Rancho Drive near Charleston Boulevard. Business and government leaders are expanding the district from 200 acres to at least 680 acres, allowing for additional health care services and opportunities.

The centerpiece of this expanded district is the 260,000-square-foot UNLV School of Medicine, which will include an educational building and library. The school was granted preliminary accreditation in 2016 and has begun accepting students for its July charter class. By 2030, LVMD is expected to have an economic impact of $2.42 billion and generate some 16,000 jobs.

Last year also was significant for the completion and adoption of the city’s first Downtown Master Plan in 16 years. The plan, created with community input, will guide Downtown development for the next 30 years with strategies that will develop a technology center and improve connectivity and mobility via a possible Downtown circulator or light-rail system.

At Symphony Park, there are plans for a 1,000-space parking garage. Additionally, more than 1,635 apartment units have been proposed or begun construction. Las Vegas also is working to reduce urban blight with $375,000 in Visual Improvement Programs to help urban businesses revitalize dilapidated building facades and bring them up to code.

And a similar business incentive program designed to attract major office tenants to Downtown also will be started soon. Viva Downtown!

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