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Three downtown projects win development grants

Efforts to develop a community center, beer garden and office building for startup companies in downtown Las Vegas got a boost Wednesday in the form of a combined $164,500 in redevelopment money.

The City Council, acting as the redevelopment agency, unanimously approved four grants for the three projects, which backers hope will contribute to the broader revival of the downtown area. In subsequent votes, the council gave the projects final approval.

The biggest project to get help was Robert L. Forbuss Building at 401 S. Maryland Parkway, which will be a gay and lesbian community center with an adjoining cafe and garden.

The center, a $4 million project, was seeking a $45,000 grant through the city’s Quick Start program, which offers money to help businesses offset building and safety code compliance costs.

In the case of the Forbuss Building, workers are trying to convert a 40-year-old structure into a 16,000-square-foot community center with sports courts, meeting space with video technology, media archives, counseling space and a coffee shop and cafe.

It’s the second grant for the center. In December, it qualified for a $50,000 matching grant for facade improvements.

Redevelopment Director Bill Arent said the latest grant will help the Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada, which will own and operate the Forbuss Building. It will use the money to help offset the costs of work on fire sprinklers, electrical, plumbing and drive widening.

“That is a common one we see in a lot of these older buildings,” Arent said. “That can be a significant cost.”

Kat Welniak, president of the construction management company KMG Solutions, said the project has about another seven weeks’ worth of work before completion. The Gay and Lesbian Community Center is in a smaller, leased space at the Commercial Center development.

Councilman Bob Coffin, whose Ward 3 includes the project, said the center is critically important to Southern Nevada. During the meeting Coffin referenced his brother, who he said died in 1982 at age 34 having kept secret his sexual orientation.

“I didn’t know until the day after he died he was gay,” Coffin said. “What a terrible burden on him. He would have been able to have had a more full life if he could have talked to people who could have counseled him.”

Another project to receive grant approval through the city was Park on Fremont, a beer garden and gastropub under construction at 506 Fremont St., near the intersection with Las Vegas Boulevard.

The tavern project, represented by partner Michael Parks and landlord Artemus Ham, won approval of $19,500 for facade improvement and up to $50,000 through the Quick Start program.

Arent said owners are spending about $895,000 on interior and exterior renovations on the 1,600-square-foot space, including expanding into an area that is currently a parking lot. Arent said Park on Fremont could be open in February.

The third project to receive funding approval was a proposed office building at 813 E. Ogden Ave., which was eligible for up to $50,000 for facade improvement. Owner Kamran Foulad said the building is a former motel that had been shuttered and fallen into disrepair. The plan is to renovate the building and convert it to small, 200- to 500-square-foot offices that would be suitable for startup companies.

Foulad said any help he can get on the project is useful because renovating the troubled building has been costly. “The motel has been vandalized and currently is boarded up,” he said.

“The other challenge is all the electrical has been vandalized, and we have to put new electrical switch gear and wire.”

Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .

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