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August 21, 2014

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Joe Downtown: With only minor glitches, leaders praise Life is Beautiful

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Steve Marcus

A lot between two vacant motels is transformed into a park during the Life is Beautiful Festival in downtown Las Vegas Sunday, Oct. 27, 2012.

2013 Life Is Beautiful: Day 2, Part 1

Life Is Beautiful festival attendees walk by a lit-up Downtown Container Park on Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013. Launch slideshow »

Despite a few minor arrests and injuries, city and police officials said Life is Beautiful was successful and that they'd like to see some parts of it become permanent.

Over the two-day event, five people were arrested for misdemeanors and three people suffered minor injuries when a roughly 30-foot tower holding streamers tumbled in the wind at the entrance Sunday.

Beyond that, however, the festival, which Metro Police estimated drew about 24,000 per day, appeared to be a roaring success and now has at least one city councilman wondering if some of the temporary touches incorporated into the two-day fest could, somehow, be made permanent.

Councilman Bob Coffin, whose downtown ward includes much of Fremont Street, said he was going to ask around about what it might take to turn the old Town Lodge Motel, which housed numerous galleries on its first floor as part of the festival's Art Odyssey, into space for art galleries.

Coffin walked the festival Saturday with his wife, Mary Hausch, who also marveled at the temporary "park" erected next to the Town Lodge Motel, wondering if that, too, might someone become permanent.

Click to enlarge photo

The Chuck Close tapestry at the 'Art Odyssey' is taken down on the closing of the Life Is Beautiful Festival, Sunday, Oct. 27, 2013.

The Town Lodge is owned by partners who created the Downtown Project, which was a partner in the Life is Beautiful fest. Downtown Project also owns the Las Vegas Motel to south. Both properties, plus one more, totaling .66 acres, were purchased for $1.5 million in 2012.

The motels sandwich space that was turned into a temporary park, a .33-acre parcel owned by J. Henry Properties Las Vegas LLC. It was purchased during the height of Las Vegas' real estate boom in 2005 for $6.4 million.

Coffin also said he was concerned about noise emanating from the festival, as some of his constituents voiced concerns. "We could hear it Saturday night, too," he said.

The festival ended fairly promptly at midnight Saturday and Sunday nights. Coffin said he wasn't sure what could be done, if anything, about the sound.

From a police perspective, the festival was something of a dream.

Capt. Shawn Andersen, who oversees the Downtown Area Command, said only five people were arrested, all for misdemeanors. He attributed the "mellow" feel of the fest to "high quality entertainment, high-end food" and the fact that there was enough room and space for maneuver easily down city streets.

The festival encompassed 15 city blocks, surrounded by a 6-foot fence. Much of the space within the fest-zone held trucks and supplies.

Police also dealt with a temporary issue late Saturday night. Andersen said police had learned some of the bars on Fremont Street wanted to stay open beyond midnight. But police had said all businesses in the area agreed to shut down at midnight, giving police time to bomb-sweep the area.

One bar operator was seen talking to police on the sidewalk of Fremont Street just before midnight. After police walked away, he was asked if he was going to stay open.

"No," he replied. "If I do they'll shut me down."

The tower that fell was one of about six that held streamers with colorful flags at the main entrance on Sixth Street. Wind blew one of the towers over at about 4:45 p.m. Sunday. A festival spokesman said three people suffered minor injuries, were treated and released within an hour.

After the tower fell, hundreds of people were herded to Seventh Street where a makeshift entrance was quickly forged.

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