Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010 | 3:03 p.m.
Imagine a pedestrian tunnel running west from the Fremont Street Experience under the Plaza Hotel & Casino, under the Union Pacific railroad tracks and eventually opening out into Symphony Park in Las Vegas' downtown.
Now imagine that tunnel containing shops or even restaurants along the way.
Mayor Oscar Goodman has been imagining such an underground gateway — and he talked more about it Thursday morning to reporters at his weekly press conference at city hall.
"There has to be connectivity between the Fremont Street Experience and the west side of the railroad tracks," Goodman said.
The mayor said a decision revealed earlier this week by the owners of the Plaza Hotel & Casino of their plans to renovate the 1,037 hotel guest rooms ends speculation that the property could be razed to make way for a pedestrian link to developments at Symphony Park.
No, the Plaza won't be imploded. And, no, there won't be a great arch drawing people from the west side of Fremont Street into Symphony Park, he said.
But a subterranean gateway could work, he said.
"I believe that we could go under the track and under the Plaza," Goodman said.
He plans to suggest to the Plaza owners that such a tunnel could also serve as a shopping mall, "where people will be able to walk from Fremont Street Experience under the Plaza, underground, both sides of it having shopping, and restaurants even, make it a pleasant pedestrian experience ... That's what it's all about to get the folks from one side to the other."
He said the tunnel would be about the same length as the existing Ogden Avenue underpass, which begins just west of Main Street and runs under the tracks west to Grand Central Parkway.
"It would be similar, but it would be pedestrian and have shops on both sides," Goodman said. "It's not a long walk. You wouldn't have the heat to worry about. It would probably be air conditioned under there, or misted, but you don't have the heat of the sun as you would if you walked down a regular street."
The concept isn't unique, he said.
"You go to Madison Square Garden and that's all underground, basically where the train station is there," he said. "And they have all of the shops, the great restaurants, the bookstores, the whole works right underground."
Goodman pointed out that he has not yet run the idea by the owner of Tamares U.S. Real Estate, which owns the Plaza.
“I haven’t run this past them. And they may say, as many people have said, ‘the mayor’s nuts.’ And that’s OK,” Goodman said.
On another downtown matter, Goodman also said he's been regretting that the city has entered an exclusive negotiating agreement with the Cordish Company to develop the city-owned land on and around the existing city hall and parking garage.
"We're not allowed to negotiate with anybody else," Goodman said. "In the past month or so I've had three, I would say substantial, groups come to me wanting to talk about building an arena. And I said I can't talk to them."
The mayor said the city will stand by its two-year contract with Cordish, which lasts for about another year.
He said Cordish's track record is such that it has built beautiful entertainment districts throughout the country.
"I'd love them to be able to figure out a way where we could build an arena because I think that we need an arena," he said. "As I said before, I think we need an arena now more than ever, or a stadium more than ever to compete with other venues throughout the country that could very well start taking some of our great convention attractions away from us."