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Medical District a ‘major new frontier’ for Las Vegas

Updated March 2, 2017 - 4:43 pm

The city of Las Vegas is looking at the burgeoning Medical District the way it looked at developing the downtown core 15 years ago.

“This is another major new frontier for the city,” Deputy City Manager Scott Adams said.

The Medical District was among the highlights of Thursday’s Downtown Momentum Tour, something the city does every other year to tout downtown.

Since 2013, the city has invested millions of dollars in infrastructure, planning and marketing for the Medical District, but those dollars are going to start ratcheting up, Adams said.

The city plans to funnel nearly $100 million more in planned investment in the Medical District beyond 2018.

A group of about 100 real estate professionals heard about the Downtown Master Plan the City Council adopted last year, economic development downtown and planned mobility improvements before piling into two double-decker buses to look at what the area has available. City tour guides on the buses highlighted vacant lots and buildings all over the city’s core.

“The real excitement is in the heart of the city,” Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the group before the buses took to the streets.

The buses wound through the East Fremont area, past the new Lucky Dragon casino, into the Historic West Side and past Symphony Park, the city-owned former rail yard where officials want to make make residential development opportunities more readily available, said Bill Arent, director of the city’s Office of Economic and Urban Development.

PLANS TO FILL AND BUILD

Arent’s office plans to unveil a pilot program that offers monetary incentives to tenants that go into existing buildings in the city, an initiative aimed at reducing the 17 percent office vacancy rate downtown, he said.

That program is expected to be unveiled in more detail soon and would require City Council approval, Arent said.

City officials are also considering turning Cashman Center into a “mixed-use sports campus,” as they continue to push for a Major League Soccer franchise. The possibility for Fremont Street Experience upgrades is also on the city’s radar, Arent said.

The level of Fremont Street visitation from the Strip has been relatively flat over the past few years, Arent said. Without reinvestment downtown the way there has been at Strip properties, “we won’t see that change.”

Five years ago, downtown Las Vegas saw a boom — the Mob Museum, The Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the new City Hall all opened within a month of one another, and the Neon Museum opened later in 2012.

MORE WORK NEEDED

But two of the areas where the city has a lot of work to do is in creating parks and open space downtown, and continuing to try to grow the housing options downtown, said Robert Summerfield, the city’s planning section manager.

The downtown area is lacking in mid-rise apartment buildings, and loft-style units located above retail spaces, Summerfield said.

“There’s not a lot of middle ground,” he said.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Find @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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