Plans for sculpture plaza put on hold

Plans for a sculpture plaza in the downtown Las Vegas Arts District hit a slight snag Thursday when neighboring property owners — both longtime district supporters and backers of the plaza — disagreed on the best way to proceed.

After hearing from the at-odds neighbors, members of the Las Vegas Planning Commission said they couldn’t make sense of what was being proposed and told everyone to come back in two weeks.

“I don’t feel, as a planning commissioner, I have been given all the information on this,” commission member Vicki Quinn said.

Arts Factory owner Westley Myles Isbutt has big plans for the blocks on Casino Center Boulevard between Charleston Boulevard and Coolidge Avenue, including a new urban lounge and 250,000 square feet of working space for sculptors, photographers, glassblowers and the like.

Those buildings would center on the sculpture plaza, which is planned to take up all of Boulder Avenue between Main Street and Casino Center. To speed development along — and to mesh his plans with ongoing road work on Casino Center — Isbutt asked the city to vacate about half of that area, meaning that Boulder Avenue from First Street to Casino Center would become private property.

“Our goal has always been to make this a sculpture park,” he said, promising repeatedly that the plaza would always be open to the public. “This is part of our development plan.”

Vacating the street, though, allows him to proceed with development immediately instead of waiting for plaza organizers to raise money. “We are financed and ready to go,” he said. “It happens faster.”

That’s not what neighbor Jack Solomon wanted to hear. Solomon co-founded the S2Art Group, which is next to Isbutt’s property, and he was worried about delivery access to his building should part of the street become private property.

He also said it’s “not in the public interest” to let half of a public amenity rest in private ownership. “It should be open to the public as was always planned,” he said.

Commissioners asked about the delivery access concerns but finally told Isbutt to do a better job of making his case.

“I think you’ve got an excellent plan,” noted Glenn Trowbridge, the commission’s vice chairman — but he also made the motion to hold the item until March 13, saying that Quinn had a point about their lack of information. “At this point, I’m saying I agree — I just don’t know,” he said.

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