Sunday, Sept. 14, 2014 | 2 a.m.
Las Vegas city leaders laid out plans in the early years of the new millennium for a vibrant new neighborhood to extend downtown to the west, an area formerly “on the wrong side of the tracks.”
Once completed, the area would be feature $6 billion worth of businesses, shops, restaurants and high-rise residences, then-Mayor Oscar Goodman promised.
More than a decade later, the neighborhood, dubbed Union Park but renamed Symphony Park, touts itself as home to the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and Discovery Children’s Museum. But little other redevelopment has taken place.
This year, Goodman’s wife and successor, Mayor Carolyn Goodman, is campaigning for a new pro soccer team to play in a stadium proposed for the area.
Across 61 acres, Symphony Park was to be home to hotels, retail and office buildings, a casino, condos, a sports arena and an arts center. The city took on debt to pay for cleanup of the former Union Pacific Railroad fueling depot and maintenance facility, and to build streets and other infrastructure needed to redevelop the area. Officials hoped the improvements would attract investors and new buildings.
Ninety percent of Symphony Park’s land remains vacant. Each year, the city pays $760,000 in principal and $168,000 in interest on the debt.
Why the delay?
The recession and Las Vegas’ long recovery have slowed development. The city also signed exclusive contracts with developers that locked up more than half of the park’s land in long-term negotiations. Some of those exclusive agreements have been extended.
Cordish Cos. of Baltimore — one of the lead soccer stadium developers — has rights to 13 acres of Symphony Park. Cordish was due to present arena plans in January. The city has extended the deadline three times.
The Charlie Palmer hotel and restaurant development has received four extensions since signing a deal in 2008. Plans for the hotel on 3 acres of land are on hold until the stadium is decided.
Another 20 acres have been promised to other developers with no required payments until at least 2016.
What has worked in Symphony Park
The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health opened in 2010 and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in 2012. But in both those cases, the city donated the land. That meant the city had no cash coming in to help pay down its debt.
The city agreed in November to sell 3.3 acres for $3.5 million to a California developer, but that deal likely won’t close until 2015. The developer will have to make $1.5 million in improvements before it can begin construction on the skilled nursing and assisted-living facility it plans for the site.