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Downtown master plan meeting elicits ideas on transit, housing

The residents came with ideas about downtown Las Vegas.

Aleta Dupree, who doesn’t own a car, thinks downtown needs better transportation resources.

Assemblywoman Heidi Swank cited building preservation as a priority. And others voiced support for more mid-range housing.

They offered their suggestions at a two-hour Downtown Master Plan session Thursday afternoon, when about 75 residents watched a consultant’s slide presentation and were even polled on a few topics related to downtown’s future. There was a second session at the Historic Fifth Street School at 401 S. Fourth St. scheduled for 5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.

It was a typical master plan forum; that is, nothing was actually decided and planning types used terms such as “diverse urban lifestyle” and “market drivers” in their presentation.

The city is paying consultant RTKL a little more than $700,000 for the downtown master plan work, a business improvement district study and other related downtown work, said Robert Summerfield, city planning section manager.

Nate Cherry, RTKL vice president, led the discussion, with several residents concerned that housing, preservation and transportation were not in the master plan’s vision statement. In fact, 76 percent of the people who voted at the meeting said the vision statement needs to be refined.

Summerfield said the blueprint for development in the evolving downtown commercial and residential landscape will include heavy doses of housing, historic preservation and transportation. On the transportation front, Cherry noted 91 percent of the trips are by car in downtown, which, he said, could be improved by having a circulator bus to eliminate some car trips.

Even though the downtown master plan process is two-thirds done, the consultant is still collecting comments from residents and fine-tuning the document. Previous comments have supported redeveloping Cashman Center into an economic hub and having several functions for more green space.

But Summerfield said the master plan still has to prioritize whether a Central Park-type green space or smaller pocket and linear parks scattered across downtown would be better.

Having a big Central Park-type green space carries a high cost to assemble properties and manage issues such as dealing with downtown’s homeless, Summerfield said.

A big player in downtown is Downtown Project, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s $350 million initiative to redevelop a llama-shaped section of downtown. Downtown Project uses a more “organic” and less structured planning process, which can be a challenge for government planners, Summerfield said.

“We want (Downtown Project’s) input and we want to know what they’re planning. But they don’t have a lot of plans,” he said.

For residents who could not attend Thursday’s master plan meeting, they can offer their thoughts on downtown by logging on to www.visionLV.com and writing their opinions.

Contact reporter Alan Snel at asnel@reviewjournal.com Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel

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