March 7, 2010 - 12:00 am
In Las Vegas, downtown redevelopment has been — at best — a mixed bag.
The goal of the scheme was to increase city tax revenues — especially gaming tax revenues from the downtown casinos — by enhancing the environment for tourists, local residents and local business owners alike.
Yes, there has been progress on the Union Pacific property. The World Market Center and outlet shopping center have generated traffic. A performing arts center and a medical center are on the horizon. But east of the train tracks, redevelopment remains a two-decade disaster.
Gaming revenues — and the gaming taxes that come from them — were declining before the recession.
Meantime, some downtown business owners were forced out through misuse of eminent domain — taxpayers ended up having to pay millions of dollars in settlements to exiled families. Their tenants were replaced by showcases such as Neonopolis, which now sits as an empty mockery of such government central planning.
Perhaps no plan could have rescued downtown from a nationwide trend that has seen retailers and shoppers shifting to suburban malls with plentiful, well-lit, free, ground-level parking. Downtown Las Vegas is also hampered from competing with the megaresorts of the Strip by the small footprints that downtown casinos occupy.
Redevelopment districts divert property taxes that might otherwise flow to the general fund. How is that helping?
Now, noticing that the recession has left empty storefronts where thriving businesses once stood, the Las Vegas City Council envisions adding another 690 to 1,564 acres to the city’s existing 3,948-acre redevelopment area, much of the targeted new land lying along Decatur Boulevard between Sahara Avenue and U.S. Highway 95.
“What we’re trying to do is stop it before it gets worse,” explains Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian.
By doing what’s already failed elsewhere? Subsidizing new paint jobs and some flower pots?
The city of Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as the worst — worst! — local jurisdiction in which to locate a business. Downtown businesses are harassed by code enforcement if they try to put up signs to attract customers and stay in business.
What Las Vegas needs is tax incentives and the elimination of nearly all its anti-business regulations, with a 30-year moratorium on placing any of them back on the books.
That might spur “redevelopment.”