Tuesday, Feb. 15, 2005 | 10:59 a.m.
History would move across town to make way for the continuing vertical development of downtown Las Vegas under plans associated with a proposed 60-story office and condominium building going before the City Council on Wednesday.
A handful of historic railroad cottages, remnants from the decades when the railroad dominated Las Vegas in the early 1900s, will be moved from the site of a proposed high rise in downtown to the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, a plan that would save the cottages from demolition and make them part of a historic display at the preserve.
Some involved in the relocation said that ideally the historic buildings would remain where they are; the next-best option is to move the buildings to a place where the public can enjoy them.
"Part of preserving a historic building is preserving it at its site. Part of the history is where it is," said Andy Kirk, an associate professor of history at UNLV and a member of the city's Historic Preservation Commission. "But in Las Vegas the choice is to save it or not and we need to make some creative compromises. It once looked like a lost cause that these buildings would be preserved, but now it looks like it's happening. It's amazing."
The cottages tagged for possible relocation are on Casino Center Boulevard between Bonneville and Garces avenues, which is the site of the proposed Club Renaissance, a 60-story, $250 million building with more than 900 condominiums. The City Council is scheduled to vote Wednesday on whether to give final approval to the building. If approved, a project partner said construction would probably begin in the summer, taking about 18 months to complete.
Bob Stoldal, KLAS-TV Channel 8 vice president of news and chairman of the city's Historic Preservation Commission, said there are seven cottages on that block that will be looked at for possible relocation. At least three will be moved to the preserve, which is expected to open to the public in late 2006. A cottage on the 600 block of Fourth Street will also be moved to the preserve, he said.
"What is special about this is that this is the first time a neighborhood has been moved for historic preservation," Stoldal said about the plan, which would ultimately recreate a small block of cottages at the preserve.
"These symbolize an important part of Las Vegas history, built in 1909, 1910 or '11. It was when Las Vegas became more than a whistle stop," he said. "People will be able to see and touch something and not just see a picture."
Stoldal said the cottages will probably be moved to the preserve within the next 90 days, but wouldn't be moved to a permanent location on the preserve, which is still under development, for about two years.
The preserve covers about 180 acres in the area surrounded by U.S. 95, Alta Drive, Valley View Boulevard, and a residential neighborhood.
Kirk said the cottages are an important piece of what is probably the least- known part of Las Vegas history.
"Las Vegas was a railroad town, and has a whole half-century history of that much like other Western towns. The railroad played a big role in the early development of the city and there is virtually nothing of that history left except for these cottages," Kirk said.
When built, the single-story, 700-square-foot cottages were the homes for the railroad managers and "the people who had made it," Kirk said.
About 65 cottages were originally built in the early 1900s, and 13 are still standing today. One of the original cottages was moved about four years ago to the Clark County Museum.
The cottages that are not moved from Casino Center (only those in the best condition will be relocated), will be scoured for useful parts such as old cabinet hinges, for the cottages being saved, Stoldal said.
Exactly how much the relocation will cost is still unknown.
Three private groups, the Cashman Family Foundation, the Las Vegas Rotary Club, and the American Public Works Association, have agreed to pay to move one cottage each, which Stoldal said will probably cost $30,000 to $40,000 each. The city will pay to move the cottage it owns on Fourth Street, he said.
Karen Whisenhunt of the Las Vegas Rotary Club said the cottages are an important link to the city's past as a railroad town.
"Of course it would be better to leave them where they are, but times being what they are, it was either save them or bulldoze them," she said.
While the cottages are on the National Register of Historic Places, that does not save them from possible demolition.
Las Vegas businessman Tim Cashman said his family sees preserving one of the cottages as "one of the best ways to memorialize and preserve a piece of history."
Rehabilitating the moved cottages could cost up to $110,000 per cottage, Stoldal said. The money for restoring the cottages is slated to come from the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.
Stoldal said work to preserve the cottages has been going on for years, and the efforts to save those on Casino Center intensified once a development proposal came forward.
He said the developers have been cooperating well with them, and are giving them the cottages.
City Councilman Gary Reese lauded the efforts to save the remaining railroad cottages.
"It's great. We've been trying for years to save them," Reese said, adding that he's not surprised to see another proposed high rise on a small downtown property.
"I've been saying for years if you give them a postage stamp they'll build on it," he said.
Club Renaissance is one of the taller proposed new high rises for downtown. At 702 feet, only the Stratosphere would be taller. The tallest high rise already approved by the council, but yet to go up, is the Summit, a proposed 73-story, 920-foot building for the corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard.
Club Renaissance would have retail shops on the first and second floors, then parking up to the 12th floor, offices on floors 13 and 14, and condominiums above that, city Planning Director Margo Wheeler said. The condominiums would sell for $149,900 to more than $900,000, according to the project's Web site, www.clubrenaissancelv.com.