Wednesday, April 11, 2012 | 10:08 p.m.
Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman talked Wednesday night about a “renaissance” of downtown development that has taken place in the past year, from new public structures, to a cultural mecca for the arts, to dozens of new small businesses and casino renovations.
The mayor also unveiled a major new initiative to beautify downtown, which will include new street signs and new efforts to improve both pedestrian and vehicle traffic.
And she said she would continue to push one goal that has stymied public leaders throughout the Las Vegas Valley — building a sports arena downtown that would attract a professional NBA team to Las Vegas.
Those were some of the highlights of Goodman's 2012 State of the City address, which was held in the City Council Chambers in the new Las Vegas City Hall.
The speech, which ran nearly 80 minutes, was Goodman's first since becoming mayor last year.
"We have to keep addressing every one of the things that has happened downtown has been about jobs — putting people to work," Goodman said. "Every time a hotel is remodeled, every small business that opens, everything that is going on is bringing jobs to our city."
The city also needs to continue moving to attract new businesses, she said.
She emphasized all the projects that have occurred as the result of efforts during the previous dozen years by the former mayor, Oscar Goodman, her husband, and past city councils.
Those included working to improve the downtown by improving public safety and getting land to begin improving the city's interior core, which had fallen to blight and crime, she said.
One of the major projects that has paid dividends was acquiring the 61-acre former railroad "brownfield" that was cleaned up and renamed Symphony Park, she said.
She touted several other projects on the horizon in Symphony Park.
Those include chef Charlie Palmer's plans for a boutique hotel and restaurant and efforts to build a new major hotel-casino.
Sports arena pushed
She said she also still had hopes of a new sports arena in the northwest side of the park.
"It is my firm commitment to develop that area into an 18,000- to 20,000 small seat arena for professional sports or an NBA team's venue, with the land adjacent to it being ready for a live entertainment district," Goodman said.
"I will say nothing more on this until the money's in the bank and the shovel's in the ground. But rest assured, I want an NBA team in our city as much as my husband did and have committed to doing that," she said.
She also said that a sports arena needs to be at the Symphony Park site, which is easily accessible from both Interstate 15 and U.S. Highway 95.
She also talked about the opening of the new City Hall at 495 S. Main Street and the sale of the old city hall property that will become the new corporate campus for online clothing retailer Zappos.com.
Goodman said this is being called the Year of Downtown "because of all the great projects that are online and opening in a domino effect."
The Year of Downtown is "one that is taking us out of the abyss to which all of Las Vegas and our country has fallen in the past six years."
"We want to make sure this city is an attraction to everybody in Southern Nevada," she said. "We want to make sure our core remains gleaming and fresh for our new attractions."
Goodman announced that the city was moving forward on a new initiative to beautify downtown.
The plan has three objectives, she said.
One would be to improve the appearance through new streetscape features that will include banners, neon signs and landscaping, she said.
The plan would also make the area more pedestrian friendly, with wider sidewalks and greater separations between pedestrians and vehicles, she said.
A third objective would be to improve the mobility of both vehicles and pedestrians around the downtown, she said.
More infrastructure projects
From July 2007 through September 2011, the city put more than $108 million into infrastructure investments for 12 downtown projects, she said.
Examples include the Neon Boneyard Park, vintage sign streetscapes, the signage in the Fremont East District, and the LED-lit paintbrush sculptures that mark the entrance to the Arts District on Charleston Boulevard, she said.
"These projects are adding such flavor to the energy and excitement of downtown and its renaissance," she said. "And so I'm proud to announce the city is going to invest another $519 million in 19 additional infrastructure projects in 2012 through 2013."
Some of the projects, such as the Smith Center arts pieces, have already been completed, while others are just getting under way, she said.
Among those projects will be a pedestrian bridge that will connect the downtown with the Smith Center in Symphony Park and new street light banners in the Arts District, she said.
After those projects are finished, a total of 31 projects involving about 7,500 construction jobs, will have been created since 2007, she said.
"The comprehensive plan will bring more initiatives in the future," she said.
More bike lanes, more trees
Goodman said that in January 2006, the city had only about 30 miles of bicycle lanes on its streets.
Since that time, the city has increased its bike lanes to about 110 miles. And by the end of 2012, it will have more than 175 miles, she said.
Goodman said plans for the upcoming year include increasing the tree canopy that shades the downtown "and continue our goal of making this beautification comprehensive for all of the people who choose to live in the downtown area and for all of us who work and play here."
The mayor said that while she was campaigning, many people told her that the city was making it cumbersome for a new business to get all of its permits and licenses to open. She said many complained about having to go from place to place.
"We need to be business friendly, rather than business repulsive," she said. Goodman said the city has done that by opening a one-stop office for current and prospective development on Rancho Drive and U.S. 95.
She said the city has set aside $1 million to support nongaming businesses.
The mayor also said that in the past year, the city has hired a "parking czar" who is working to help improve parking downtown by coming up with a comprehensive plan that includes not only the city's on-street parking and public lots, but also private parking lots.
No feather boas or gin
Although her husband, Oscar Goodman, often brought colorful showgirls and a large martini glass to his State of the City address, Carolyn Goodman arrived only with her speech and a host of family members in the first row.
However, she did make a reference to the former mayor's address antics, getting some laughs.
"As we are finally winding down, I'm so glad you're alive," she said about 70 minutes into her speech. "And I didn't have to do this with showgirls and Bombay Sapphire being passed out to all of you."