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Walkway to roadway conversion at The District wins over opponents

After months of debating among residents and business owners, many sessions in front of the Henderson Planning Commission and the Henderson City Council followed by a summer of construction, The District at Green Valley Ranch is now open to vehicles.

Jeffrey Axtell, vice president of acquisitions and development for Vestar Development, which owns The District, said the project wrapped up construction in October.

“Just in time for our big Halloween party,” he said.

The conversion took away the cobblestone pathway at The District, 3340 Village Walk Drive, to add two lanes of traffic down the middle.

The addition also added more parking spaces outside stores.

Since discussion for the project started, people had lined up to share pros and cons with changing the pedestrian walkway into a road.

On one side, a group — which launched the Facebook campaign Car-Free District at GVR — opposed the project, saying it would detract from the area.

Grieg de la Houssaye, who voiced opposition at various meetings held by Vestar and the city of Henderson, was originally against the project from the first conversation.

“I’m pleasantly surprised the way it’s turned out,” he said. “They made it more walker-friendly than I expected.”

He said he believes Vestar took into consideration much of what the opposition was saying and as a result, it appeased the group.

“I think they were more sensitive to the fact people just like to go and hang out and walk around,” de la Houssaye said.

Chris Connors, who owns Rachel’s Kitchen in The District, was a naysayer of the project who turned into an advocate.

“I was fortunate enough to see the plans and knew what to expect,” he said.

He added that most customers, even during the construction, were still against the road.

“They didn’t know what was going to happen,” he said.

But many have since changed their stance, he said.

“They have made a 180,” Connors said. “They were surprised the way it turned out. (Vestar) carried out their plans to a T. I think it looks nice. It’s clean and beautiful. I’ve worked in other similar malls. None of them have a look like this.”

Connors already has seen added business because of the change in the short time its been implemented.

“Now, customers stop in when we open at 8 a.m. before work,” he added. “Before, they would have to park and walk over. Now, they can just park right outside and walk in to grab breakfast or a quick juice.”

One of the complaints among many against the transition was it would eliminate walking space.

“I think it’s more walkable,” Connors said.

Though people can’t walk down the middle, there is still sidewalk space to encourage customers to stroll the area.

The change also added items such as trees, plants and furniture.

“Now, you can sit down and relax now that they have put out patio furniture,” Connors said. “It’s not just a simple park bench. You can sit down, read the paper and be comfortable.”

De la Houssaye said the patio furniture is a nice addition.

“I hope they maintain it,” he said. “It gives it a nice, fresh look. I hope they keep it.”

Axtell said the move would also enable The District to attract more businesses and fill vacant spots.

Charming Charlie, a retail store, and Brookstone have recently opened.

Connors is excited for what’s still to come.

He said he has been working with Vestar and others in the area to research bringing a farmers market to The District.

“It would have local vendors selling vegetables, produce,” he said. “We hope to also have wine and music. It’s going to be very community-driven. It’s going to be nice to have a farmers market in the area.”

Connors said he hopes to get that going in early 2014.

He said Rachel’s Kitchen hopes to partner with REI to do community bicycle rides.

“Vestar is helping getting a lot of these things going,” he said. “It’s nice to be able to create a community hub. I think in the past we lost our pizazz, but we are ready to kick butt down the road.”

For more information, visit shopthedistrictgvr.com.

Contact Henderson/Anthem View reporter Michael Lyle at mlyle@viewnews.com or 702-387-5201.

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