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Residents decry new city hall proposal

A meeting on the proposed Las Vegas city hall nearly erupted into bedlam Tuesday night as residents of historic West Las Vegas shouted down city officials with complaints that job promises haven’t borne fruit for blacks and vows that residents aren’t going to stand for more of the same.

“All they’re coming to the ‘hood for is support,” yelled Angela Wesley, one of many people who lost patience with the answers offered to support a new city hall and related development. “We’re not getting nothing back. … Why should we be willing to give you our support?”

The meeting at Doolittle Community Center brought city staff, Mayor Oscar Goodman, Councilman Ricki Barlow and representatives of city hall developer Forest City together with about 60 residents of the neighborhood near downtown, most of whom had the same complaint: Previous promises of jobs from redevelopment have not been kept.

“You can feel the frustration,” said Gene Collins, a West Las Vegas resident, to Dmitri Vazelakis, who’s heading the project for Forest City. “We have heard this before. You’re just the next guy in line to catch it.

“If it’s not going to benefit us — if it’s going to be the same thing that we got before — then why should we welcome you?”

Vazelakis and Barlow promised that this time will be different.

Forest City is working on an employment plan for city hall construction, Vazelakis said, so that minority contractors will be included.

The plan should be ready in 45 to 60 days and will be presented to the community, he said.

The proposed city hall would be at the corner of First Street and Clark Avenue downtown and would anchor a four-block office development, said Scott Adams, the city’s director of business development.

The project would open up other land for commercial development, and Forest City has plans to build a hotel-casino in the city-owned Union Park.

It brings new development downtown instead of to the Strip or the suburbs, Adams said.

“We didn’t start to see center job development until redevelopment really got things ripping in the last 10 years,” he said.

The plan has many critics, though, who say the $150 million to $267 million project is too risky in the midst of an economic tsunami.

Barlow, who was a council liaison before becoming a councilman, acknowledged that past projects have not had the promised impact.

“I was a part of that history. But now that I’m in the driver’s seat, feel free to hold me accountable,” he said. “Give me the opportunity to help bring about the change that this community has stood up and rallied around.

“Let’s not push the developer away from the table.”

Contact reporter Alan Choate at achoate@reviewjournal.com or 702-229-6435.

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