Let’s Make Downtown Bigger, Not Smaller

The Neighborhoods of DTLV

Check out the map above. You can click on it to make it larger. These, savage reader, are the neighborhoods in your neighborhood. If you live in one of Downtown’s vintage cottages, tract homes or ranch-style compounds, it’s probably located within the boundaries of this map – and now, you know what to call yourself. I’m a Huntridge man, myself. How about you? Are you in Mayfair? Glen Heather? Alta Vista? Do you wanna be?

I love this map all to pieces, and not just because I live within it. This map speaks to a larger truth that I keep returning to in this blog: Downtown Las Vegas is a lot more than those five blocks of Fremont Street that comprise the Fremont East Entertainment District and the businesses adjacent to the corner of Charleston and Art Way. In fact, Downtown covers a fairly large area according to the City of Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency, whose media kit I will quote from here:

The city of Las Vegas currently has two designated redevelopment areas. Redevelopment Area 1 encompasses 3,948 acres. The area roughly includes the greater downtown Las Vegas area east of I-15, south of Washington Avenue, north of Sahara Avenue and west of Maryland Parkway. It also includes the Charleston Boulevard, Martin L. King Boulevard and Eastern Avenue corridors.

Greater downtown. That’s the DTLV I know and live in. In the broad strokes, it’s a nice, big rectangular box that includes not just Fremont East and the Arts District, but Symphony Park, the Charleston Corridor and the neighborhoods named in the map pictured at top. The borders of this blog’s coverage are Sahara, Valley View, Washington and Eastern, and we feel pretty good about them. There are a lot of good things happening in that area, and a lot of great places to live.

I’ve met a number of people who take issue with our coverage area. To them, Downtown is Fremont East, full stop. Maybe some bits of the Arts District, but only on First Friday. These are usually the same well-meaning people who describe Downtown Las Vegas as “a blank slate,” or say that they’re “building a city within a city.” To their eyes, much of Downtown has no character … and to be fair, that’s a perfectly natural reaction for someone who’s come from a San Francisco or New York. You need a special kind of eyes to see what differentiates Mayfair from Morning View, and that perception takes some time to develop.

But these people are only depriving themselves of a revelation I had when I returned to Las Vegas in May 2012, after a 10-year absence: What’s happening here is bigger than First Friday and even bigger than Zappos moving to the old City Hall. Las Vegas, the city, has changed its mind. It now wants to be a city–to have sprawling multi-use parks, high-density housing and rapid transit. And this change is most immediately visible Downtown because that’s where this city happened the first time. We’re rebuilding from the center outward.

Ultimately, I’d like for this blog to cover not only Fremont East and the Arts District, but a revived Charleston, perhaps anchored by a refurbished Huntridge Theater. I’d like to be able to write about new restaurants and retail on Las Vegas Boulevard, near to where Viva Las Arepas, Art of Flavors Gelato and White Cross Market have recently put down stakes. I’d like DTLV.com to include stories on the ongoing expansion of the Springs Preserve, one of the loveliest spots in the Valley. And to do all that, our idea of Downtown needs to be bigger, not smaller.

Just look around you. At the current rate of growth, Fremont East will be completely built out within a decade. The Arts District might take a bit longer to fill out, but it surely will; Juhl, Soho and the Newport are nearly certain to get some high-rise and mid-rise company. And once SLS opens its doors at Sahara and Las Vegas Boulevard, it seems likely that some entrepreneurial sorts will try to fill in the Strip between Sahara and Fremont with complimentary businesses: boutique hotels, restaurants and nightclubs. Those dominoes have been waiting to fall for years.

We can’t afford to shrink our idea of what Downtown can be. Not now, with this amazing momentum carrying us along. We can fill up this map, and several others like it. Imagine Water Street, Maryland Parkway and even Summerlin filled with locally owned businesses, and accessible by light rail.

We can get there, you know. We’ve got the people, the money, the land and the will to become. All we need now is the desire to peer into the regions off the map, and to wonder what’s going on over there.

NEIGHBORHOODS MAP BY GREG STENSON

Vegas Seven

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