Mayor highlights Las Vegas’ strides at State of the City address

Key figures in downtown Las Vegas look to continue the momentum gained in 2012 in the coming months and years.

“The city is alive and making a recovery,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said of the 120-square-mile portion of the valley during her second State of the City address, Jan. 10. “We’ve already created a solid social and residential base in the core of Las Vegas.”

Goodman lauded efforts by the city to streamline processes for businesses to move downtown . The programs included the city’s Quick Start program, which awards grants of up to $50,000 to business that move into existing redevelopment area buildings and bring them up to code, and the ability to submit building permits online.

“These are innovative, incredible programs for businesses downtown,” she said. “The most important thing for us right now is the brick and mortar.”

Downtown is “booming because of the seeds planted,” Goodman said.

“We’ve come a long way together. We are coming out of these hard times.”

The importance of continued growth of business in the area is something Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce spokeswoman Cara Roberts agreed with, citing the chamber’s recently launched Jump Start Vegas program.

“The Jump Start Vegas program will help high-tech startup businesses get the best chance in succeeding,” she said. “(The chamber) is doing the things we need to do in order to diversify our economy, what we in the community need to be doing to pave the way to greater prosperity.”

Roberts said she sees the tech industry as a path to prosperity.

“Companies like Facebook and Apple began as startups,” she said. “Imagine if just one of those companies (in Las Vegas) were to reach that level of success.”

The people behind the Downtown Project, which includes a $50 million technology fund for startup companies, are also hoping to continue making waves in 2013.

“We’re thrilled to be a part of the organic revitalization movement downtown,” said Jeanne Markel, the director of Zappos’ downtown team who also splits her time with the Downtown Project. “Downtown Project is really beginning to come to fruition, and we’re focused on making it happen.”

The group’s container park, a $15 million project converting used shipping containers and steel cubes into retail outlets, bars, restaurants and a children’s park at the corner of Fremont and Seventh streets, is expected to be completed by fall , according to Markel.

“(The container park) is the crown jewel of the Downtown Project,” she said. “But it’s a very small piece of what is going on downtown.”

The 18b Arts District, an area of cultural growth and urban development also touted by Goodman during her speech, is also looking for 2013 to be another banner year.

“What we saw in 2012 was a diversification in the Arts District,” said Brett Wesley Sperry, owner of the Brett Wesley Gallery, Artifice and Art Square. “It is quickly becoming an arts and design district.”

Art Square’s soon-to-open restaurant Mingo, a coffee shop in the building , 1025 S. First St., and the long-vacant high-rise Juhl , 353 E. Bonneville Ave., beginning to lease its 300 units will all add to the “vitality” of the district, Sperry said, a district that is constantly evolving.

“With Art Square, that’s 14 businesses that didn’t exist a year ago. That’s huge,” he said. “It really defines the entrepreneurial spirit of the Arts District.”

The coming year will also be an important one for the Nevada Department of Transportation, according to spokesman Damon Hodge.

The department is acquiring $100 million worth of property necessary to begin construction of Project Neon, NDOT’s estimated $1.8 billion Interstate 15 expansion from Sahara Avenue through the Spaghetti Bowl.

As of November, about 57 percent of the properties have been acquired, 16 percent of acquisitions are still pending, 13 percent are still in negotiations and the remaining 14 percent are in the process of condemnation, according to Hodge.

Construction on the project is slated to begin at the end of this year.

“This is the largest project NDOT has ever done,” Hodge said. “With a project so big, delays are to be expected.”

The department is also scheduled to begin construction of an F Street underpass this summer. That project comes with a 20-month construction schedule and a $13 million to $16 million price tag.

Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at nlister@viewnews.com or 702-383-0492.

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