Las Vegas Sun

April 22, 2019

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City seeks Las Vegas Scenic Byway

Las Vegas' scenic, cultural and historic centerpiece is Las Vegas Boulevard in all its glory -- from strip clubs and wedding chapels to the old neon "Glitter Gulch," according to a city plan.

The city council voted Wednesday to designate the boulevard from Sahara Avenue to Washington Avenue as a scenic byway, which is the first step to getting federal funds for the area.

According to a city plan, the idea would be "for tourists and residents alike to experience the heart of Las Vegas on an adventure that captures 150 years of history, glitz, commerce and roadside charm."

The criteria for choosing Scenic Byways includes whether it's scenic, natural, historic, archaeological, cultural or recreational. The city plan states that the Las Vegas Boulevard Byway meets three of those qualities -- scenic, historic and cultural. Given the strip clubs, adult book stores and wedding chapels just north of Sahara Avenue, one also could argue that it also meets the criteria for recreational.

The owner of the Olympic Garden -- a strip club -- had a representative on the group that helped the city develop the plan, and he joined several others in thanking the city for its support of the project. He was one of the business owners in the area invited to participate.

The city plan notes that the adult businesses are a part of Las Vegas Boulevard. "These types of enterprises contributed to the legend of 'Naked City,' " the report says, "and can provide an environmental and social context for the diverse range of entertainment activities that are unique to the history and development of Las Vegas."

If the byway receives federal money, it could be turned into an attraction with signs promoting it and potentially a visitors center, according to the city plan.

The plan breaks down the corridor into segments, and identifies the major landmarks in each -- for example, the "Cultural Corridor" from Bonanza Road to Washington Avenue includes the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort, and the Lied Children's Museum.

Other "corridors" identified include: The Casino Corridor, from Sahara to Oakey Boulevard; the Gateway Corridor from Oakey to Charleston Boulevard; the Arts / Business Corridor from Charleston to Clark Avenue; the Justice Corridor from Clark to Carson Avenue; the Fremont Corridor from Carson to Ogden Avenue; and the Civic Corridor from Ogden to U.S. 95.

The next step is to have Las Vegas' Scenic Byway approved by the federal government, which could happen in 2005. After that, the city could use the designation to apply for grants, said Yorgo Kagafas, who was project manager for the plan.

Cindy Funkhouser, who owns the Funk House at 1228 S. Casino Center in the Arts District, was one of the committee members who helped Kagafas develop the plan.

"It (the Scenic Byway) includes things within eyeshot of the boulevard, and in some cases the Arts District is just a block off. You can see my building from the boulevard," Funkhouser said. She said while Las Vegas was not old -- "There's not much here pre-1940s" -- it is unique.

For example, she said, "I love neon signs. I consider them a form of art." She said the properties along the byway are "going to be continually improved, and if we get the designation, part of that is that future signs will have to include a percentage of neon."

While the plan gained the overall approval of council, Yorgo faced questioning about why Woodlawn Cemetery wasn't part of it. The stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard in the city limits goes from Sahara to Owens, but the plan limited the byway designation to the part between Sahara and Washington.

The cemetery at Las Vegas Boulevard and Owens Avenue is out according to the federal rules.

Deputy City Manager Betsy Fretwell told council "we will re-apply for that segment (between Washington and Owens)." However, she told them, it was a rigorous and lengthy process.

Al Gallegos, who regularly attends council meetings, wondered how the cemetery could not be included.

"Anyone who has loved ones in that cemetery -- that is a historic site," he said.

Council members directed staff to work to include Woodlawn and they questioned how the cemetery could not meet the federal criteria.

Councilman Lawrence Weekly was blunt in his assessment of why it was not included: "Because it (the area where Woodlawn is located) encompasses the homeless corridor," he said. Woodlawn dates to the beginning of the century, and among its 26,000 residents are pioneers and Civil War veterans.