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Joe Downtown: Construction to begin on downtown beautification project

Downtown Beautification Project

City of Las Vegas

Artist’s rendering of the Main and Commerce streets beautification project as envisioned by the city of Las Vegas.

Updated Thursday, April 17, 2014 | 4:09 p.m.

Click to enlarge photo

Current view of the area that will be updated via the Main and Commerce streets beautification project by the city of Las Vegas.

The city is about to shower some love on a part of downtown that needs it.

Construction on a Main and Commerce streets beautification project, which will eventually stretch from Stewart Avenue south to Sahara Avenue, will begin next month.

City Council members voted unanimously Wednesday for a contract with Las Vegas Paving Corp. to begin the first phase, at $13 million-plus, from Bonneville to Stewart avenues.

Trees will be planted, sidewalks widened and bike lanes will be added.

Though a rendering presented to the City Council shows a sculpture of a painter's palette at the Main/Commerce couplet, north of Gass Avenue, Felipe Ortiz, assistant to Councilman Bob Coffin, said it was added to the rendering merely to identify the Arts District. There is no money allocated to build a sculpture there, he said.

The two roads will also become one-way streets at that point.

Construction is planned to start in May and is funded by the city and Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada. It will be completed over two phases stretching two-plus years.

The second phase would begin in late 2015 or early 2016.

Mayor Carolyn Goodman drives the route to work — City Hall abuts Main Street — and she said she wished the project were “done tomorrow.”

The two streets shoot almost straight lines through the 18B/Arts District, which is seeing fits of redevelopment but without the benefit of deep corporate pockets. Downtown Project, one mile to the northeast, is investing $350 million into East Fremont Street in various revival efforts.

For many years, the Arts District was, and remains to some degree, home base for used-furniture stores and auto engine shops.

Just before the recession, a would-be development group had plans to build a large complex of casinos, retail shops and an arena there. With the city’s blessing, REI Neon would have demolished most of the older, small buildings to make way.

But the recession stopped those plans. Some would say it rescued those buildings. Today, some of them have been rebooted into urban lounges, galleries, design studios and restaurants.

This is the city’s second recent move aimed at improving the western edge of downtown, which includes the Arts District and is in Councilman Bob Coffin’s ward.

In March, the council extended a 50 percent discount on a $20,000 license fee for new bars in the district. Before that, only the Fremont East Entertainment District received a discount.

Marc Abelman, who operates Inside Style on Main Street and is president of 18b, The Las Vegas Arts District, believes the move is a natural one that bridges the gap between City Hall/downtown and the northern edge of the Las Vegas Strip.

The street improvements will “make this a walkable district, and I think that’s important for us on Main Street and for activating Commerce Street, which isn’t utilized much right now,” Abelman said.

Downtown resident Brian “Paco” Alvarez, who is on the city Arts Commission, said “this is downtown’s Main Street. It’s the perfect gateway to downtown from Las Vegas Boulevard South.”

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

CORRECTION: This story has been updated to reflect that no sculpture of a painter's palette is planed as part of the beautification project. | (April 18, 2014)

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