Talk of relocating Las Vegas City Hall into a new “City Government Center” on the 61 acres west of the Union Pacific Railroad tracks has apparently gone a-glimmering. Instead, the City Council on Wednesday will discuss spending an estimated $150 million (in other words, $350 million) to move the city’s administrative headquarters from its current location on Stewart Avenue to the site of the derelict Queen of Hearts casino on First Street between Lewis and Clark avenues.
Is this step proposed because the current 276,000-square-foot City Hall — built in 1973 — is inadequate?
Not at all. City spokesman David Riggleman admits “space requirements are not the driving force” behind the relocation proposal. Rather, the city hopes that building a new City Hall at a time when city revenues are falling below expectations will prove a good way “to create some economic stimulus for the downtown.”
Maybe — if the City Hall were being moved from a current location in Indian Springs or Sandy Valley.
In fact, the current City Hall is already downtown, built two blocks north of Fremont Street in hopes of stimulating economic development there.
This notion that private economic development can be given a “stimulus” by pouring tax dollars into fancy government edifices is a bit oversold, in the first place. Yes, workers at the new downtown IRS building and the new federal courthouse need someplace to buy lunch; a few local sandwich joints may prosper. But the Queen of Hearts is immediately west of the new Clark County courthouse — a model of frugal outlays, timely construction performance and good elevator planning if there ever was one — where parking is already so inconvenient and overpriced as to be nearly prohibitive for “plain old citizens” without badges.
The notion that fancy restaurants, bookstores and trendy boutiques will magically sprout up at First and Lewis after City Hall is moved there is given the lie by simply walking a circuit around the current City Hall — or many other spiffy municipal facilities — in search of such amenities.
City Finance Director Mark Vincent says selling the current City Hall site — once it’s demolished, presumably — might net $51 to $81 million, though he immediately added that in the current “soft” real estate market such a return could not be guaranteed. Then, the report to be considered by the council Wednesday speculates that “international office/convention space” or a new gaming/resort development is likely to spring up on the current City Hall site.
Based on past performance, allow us to suggest a more likely pattern of use for the Stewart Avenue site might be a payday loan center, a souvenir shop and a gun store.
If the purpose of selling off the current City Hall for $51 million and building a new one for $150 million is to create an “economic stimulus,” why not simply carry $100 million in cash in bundles to the top of one of the highest downtown hotels, and dump it over the side?
It would be easier.