The Las Vegas City Council approved the centerpiece Wednesday to the Neon Museum’s major expansion plan to double its footprint on Las Vegas Boulevard.
The Neon Museum will pay the city $1 yearly in rent to use the nearby, shuttered Reed Whipple Cultural Center, which will be renamed Ne10 – a combination of neon’s chemical symbol and atomic number.
The three-year lease agreement also contains an option for a 27-year extension with the same rental terms.
The museum opened in 2012 as an outdoor memorial to vintage Las Vegas signage. The next phase of development, dubbed “Neon 2020,” will bring an indoor space for visitors and a third neon-display boneyard.
Inside Reed Whipple, a long-time arts space that closed in summer 2016, museum officials plan to launch an indoor gallery in the 8,000-square-foot theater. Other areas will be used for public demonstrations of neon artistry, classrooms, offices and storage, CEO Rob McCoy told the Review-Journal on Tuesday.
The back portion of the parking lot will become the third neon-displaying boneyard for the museum, adding to its main Neon Boneyard and Neon Boneyard North Gallery across the street, McCoy said.
Jerry Walker, the city’s director of operations and maintenance, said Wednesday that the first three years of the lease were meant to afford the museum time to bring the center to operating condition. But McCoy said the entire project should be finished in not more than 2½ years.
With the center in disrepair, major renovations are expected to begin in August and wrap up by the first quarter of next year. This first phase is anticipated to cost $3.1 million.
A second component of the expansion will occur at the existing site, which is nearly full with more than 200 neon signs and thousands of artifacts. Thirty-foot grids are planned for the main boneyard, first on the north side then along the east, to allow certain signs to be displayed on elevated platforms because outward growth is restricted.
There are also plans to create a taxi, rideshare and bus drop-off area at the center to alleviate congestion at the existing site, according to Curt Carlson, the project’s architect and vice chairman of the museum’s board of trustees.
Carlson said upgrades would preserve the Reed Whipple facility’s mid-century design. Councilman Cedric Crear, whose Ward 5 district encompasses the area, called the center “a very valuable property” and cast the project as a reinvestment into the community.
The council on Wednesday also approved a $2.2 million city grant to support the museum’s operations.
The Neon Museum leases space on the Las Vegas Review-Journal’s property on Bonanza Road.