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Developer aims to create spaces for new Huntridge businesses

Some people would look at the Huntridge Tavern and the surrounding area and only see a run-down dive bar and cut-rate stores catering to the poor and the homeless. When J Dapper looks at the Huntridge Shopping Center at 1116 E. Charleston Blvd., he sees something different: potential.

“I want to make it a viable place for people to shop and come to cool eateries,” Dapper said. “I love Las Vegas, and I have a lot of family ties here. I’ve always wanted to do something downtown, but it’s been difficult for a lot of reasons.”

The Las Vegas native is the owner of Dapper Companies, a development company that specializes in new, from-the-ground-up development, including fast-food restaurants, convenience stores, shopping centers and some office and industrial development.

He said when he initially looked at downtown property, it was considered run-down and not worth putting money into. Then Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh brought new projects there, and downtown property became expensive and difficult to buy. Dapper looked at properties that were selling for four times what he imagined the actual value was. Now the pendulum has swung back a bit, and he purchased several properties within sight of the Huntridge Theater, including the Huntridge Shopping Center.

“It’s 10,000 square feet total,” Dapper said. “It houses the Huntridge Tavern — which, I believe, may be the oldest continuously operating tavern in Las Vegas — the Huntridge Pharmacy and Hi-Rollers Barbershop.”

The property is also home to a Savers thrift store and a Save-A-Lot grocery store.

“It’s the first grocery store that has been in this area in a very long time,” Dapper said. “It opened about four months ago, and this was a pretty major food desert before then.”

Dapper has no plans to drive out any of the businesses. He said he just wants to change the feel of the neighborhood and that his goal is to revitalize the area without losing any of its old-school charm.

This statement will probably come as some relief to patrons of the Huntridge Tavern, which draws a mix of longtime locals, artists, creative types and some of the new blood drawn by Zappos and other Hsieh-related projects.

What Dapper does plan to do is shift things to better utilize the square footage available.

“The pharmacy has a lot of extra space, so we talked them into shrinking down,” he said. “We’re going to remodel the space and put them in about 2,200 square feet, which will give us space to create two new spaces. We’re going to build a new space for the barbershop and have the new spaces on either side of the established businesses.”

Dapper created the Huntridge Neighborhood Business Association after purchasing the shopping plaza. By early December, 10 business owners had signed on. He hopes that by the end of January, that number will be around 25 to 30.

“When I first bought the property, I knew there were a lot of challenges,” Dapper said. “There are homeless people; there is crime and other things. It’s hard to fix these issues as one person. I thought a lot about this, and I think the only way to take this area back and make it a viable place again is an association.”

One of the first changes Dapper made to the shopping plaza was to demolish the old Farm Basket building that stood on the east side of the property and had been vacant for several years. He has already had a replacement building designed and hopes to start construction in late spring/early summer.

“The building had become a haven for the homeless, and it had been around well beyond its usefulness,” Dapper said. “I’m working with Merideth (Spriggs) at Caridad. They help businesses deal with homeless issues.”

The charity’s stated goal is ending homelessness, and Dapper said it will be a liaison between businesses in the area and the homeless, seeking to help individuals who need housing, identification or a number of other things. The plan is for the business association to donate to the charity to achieve both organizations’ goals. For more information on Caridad, visit caridadcharity.com.

“Instead of having security push the homeless problem further down Charleston (Boulevard), we’re going to have an increased security presence combined with the charity’s staff working with the homeless to help get them off the streets,” Dapper said.

Across Charleston, Dapper owns two other properties that are being gutted and remodeled, including the former Mahoney’s Drum Shop. He made an unsuccessful bid to acquire the Huntridge Theater from owners Eli Mizrachi and his father Aron.

“I tried to put a deal together, but they wanted an unrealistic price,” Dapper said. “I don’t think there will be any changes there for six to 24 months. I don’t think they’re interested in doing anything with it now.”

Bob Coffin, city councilman for Ward 3, used to go to the movies when the Huntridge Theater was still one of the area’s few movie theaters.

“I moved here when I was 9, and I saw a lot of films there,” Coffin said. “There’s a lot of sentiment attached to the Huntridge, and it’s still a viable location. It’s definitely an anchor point. I think selling it is going to be complicated because the owners are being sued by the state.”

Two state agencies, which provided about $1.5 million to “save the Huntridge” after the roof collapsed, are suing Eli Mizrachi. They’re asking for the state’s money back because he failed to abide by the covenants put on the sale. That case is scheduled to go to trial in May.

“It’s his land, and he can do almost whatever he wants with it, but he’s going to end up paying a lot of money to the state if he doesn’t conform,” Coffin said. “That’s going to cut into any profit he would make from selling it. I hope that Mr. Mizrachi gets real and sells it to someone who can make something out of it.”

Dapper certainly hoped to be that buyer, but not acquiring the theater hasn’t dampened his enthusiasm for the neighborhood. He said he hopes that he and the new Huntridge Neighborhood Business Association will be successful in creating positive change.

“The Center with the Bronze Cafe is just two blocks away,” Dapper said. “PublicUs and the Bunkhouse are just three or four blocks beyond that, and that’s the edge of Fremont East.”

It isn’t hard to follow Dapper’s logic to a loop of revitalization that includes the Downtown Project’s work along Fremont East, the city of Las Vegas’ construction down Main Street and the 18b Arts District, all surrounding legal offices and city services in the oldest parts of town.

One of the assets Dapper is excited about is the large sign on the northeast corner of the roof of the Huntridge Shopping Plaza. It’s a type of signage he said is nearly impossible to get approved on new construction. He also intends to create a new sign on the street side of the property branding it the Huntridge Shopping Plaza. Currently, there is no sign identifying the place. He has several designs he’s looking at, all of which are a retro style using elements of mid-century modern architecture.

“If I was just building a simple pylon sign, no one would care,” Dapper said. “What I want to create here is something that is new but honors old Vegas. This could be a great part of town with a little work.”

— To reach East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor, email ataylor@viewnews.com or call 702-380-4532.

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