Terry Murphy may be Downtown Las Vegas’ biggest advocate.
Murphy, president of public affairs company Strategic Solutions, was named this month as president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance, which includes downtown stakeholders — businesses, nonprofits and public entities — with the goal of promoting the city’s urban core.
Murphy has a history with downtown.
When Clark County officials were planning to build the government’s new headquaters, Murphy, along with then-Mayor Jan Jones, lobbied the commissioners to stay downtown. Murphy managed the project.
And when the idea of converting the Historic Fifth Street School into a records storage facility was floating around, Murphy opposed it. “For me, downtown has always been a passion,” Murphy said.
The businesswoman said the recent resurgence in downtown’s popularity has been the result of decades of planning.
“It all looks like an overnight success, but the groundwork was laid long ago,” Murphy said.
She pointed to former Mayor Oscar Goodman’s devotion to the area, redevelopment agency funds, adventurous entrepreneurs and Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s $350 million investment in the form of the Downtown Project as the catalysts.
“What everybody is doing feeds on what everybody else is doing,” Murphy said. “What is most attractive has been the creation of an incredible community.”
Formed in 2006, the alliance was conceived as a sort of steering committee looking to improve the downtown “ecosystem,” according to the alliance’s former president, Richard Worthington.
To be eligible for membership, one must own commercial property or a business within the boundaries of downtown or a nonprofit entity serving the downtown community, and all prospective members must be sponsored by an existing board member.
Worthington said the recession years were tough on the organization, with many members resigning, but he sees “more opportunities than obstacles” these days.
“It is even more important now that we help the city (promote downtown),” he said. “First and foremost, we have to serve as a forum for discussion to improve the quality of life in the area … The city can’t do much on their own, but they have a private partner in the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance.”
The alliance’s membership has swelled to nearly 40 board members representing various facets of business — from Atomic Liquors manager Kent Johns to Las Vegas Natural History Museum executive director Marilyn Gillespie.
Murphy said the organization has much on its agenda.
The group plans to help increase focus on public safety in the area.
“Although crime is down in the area, public safety needs to continue to be a priority for everyone,” she said.
Bringing free transit to the 18b Arts District, connecting it to other corridors such as the Fremont East District, is also something the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance is considering.
But Murphy said the biggest issue facing downtown growth is the extension of redevelopment agency funding, for which the organization plans to lobby the Nevada Legislature in coming months.
The redevelopment area that encompasses downtown was formed in 1986 and diverts increases in property taxes in the area back into the agency in order to attract new business and development and improve existing businesses and developments. The redevelopment area has a life span of 30 years and is set to expire in 2016. Bonds are also sold to make more of an immediate impact and are repaid with the tax increments.
“Frankly, we need to sell more bonds,” Ward 3 City Councilman Bob Coffin said. “And we need an extension to give buyers more confidence.”
Many city officials have credited the agency with reviving downtown.
“A lot of these businesses couldn’t exist without the redevelopment agency,” Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman said. “It’s something you have to build, but once it gets going, it’s something that builds itself.”
The city’s redevelopment agency is responsible for programs such as Quick Start , which reimburses businesses up to $50,000 toward the cost of rehabilitating older buildings in redevelopment areas to bring them up to current building and fire code .
Murphy now must convince the Legislature that extending redevelopment agency funding to one area of Las Vegas is beneficial. Worthington is confident that Murphy and the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance are up to the tasks.
“She is going to do well,” he said. “She has been a fixture in Southern Nevada for years. She comes with a lot of credibility and a lot of respect.”
Worthington has taken on the role of treasurer for the organization and said he hopes to remain a resource to newer members. “I told Terry I’m not going anywhere,” he said with a laugh. “I’m going to be in their soup more than ever.”
Much like the group’s previous generation of business executives — Don Snyder, Irwin Molasky and Worthington — Murphy said she will work to foster a sense of philanthropic responsibility in the next generation of executives.
While looking down Fremont Street, standing outside The Beat Coffeehouse, Murphy said, “I see hope, creativity, vision and a lot of blood, sweat and tears.”
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter Nolan Lister at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0492.