Wednesday, Aug. 8, 2018 | 2 a.m.
Downtown Henderson is slowly starting to have a different look and feel.
Redevelopment officials believe a bevy of infrastructure improvements and new businesses will modernize Water Street as they work toward developing a fresh identity for the downtown’s longtime main street.
“We’ve spent millions of dollars in the downtown area improving our roadways, utilities, sidewalks and landscaping aimed at making the pedestrian element that much more enjoyable,” said Mark Hobaica, the Henderson redevelopment manager and city architect. “It sort of sets the stage for all the development in the area.”
The changes will be obvious, especially when entering Water Street: In early 2019, the area will feature a gateway arch near Lake Mead Parkway welcoming visitors to the “Water Street District.”
There are two more downtown gateways: one at Basic Road near Haynes Drive as you enter from Boulder Highway, and the other at Pacific Avenue near Van Wagenen Trail. Also, neon signage will be installed on the canopy running above Water Street between City Hall and Henderson Municipal Courthouse.
That’s just the beginning.
At least $10 million in private-sector money will be pumped into the downtown in the next two years, with up to $50 million in projects before 2022, officials said.
“You’ll start to see a new identity really take hold,” Hobaica said.
A handful of new businesses will open in the next six months, including Hades Grill this week, Flavor Flav and Vinny’s Chicken and Pizza in late September, Juan’s Flaming Fajitas in October, and the UNLV-themed Hardway Eight bar and restaurant in late fall. Gold Mine Tavern, a Water Street mainstay, is expanding.
“It’s a good economy right now, and momentum is on our side,” Hobaica said. “Downtown hasn’t seen new buildings in years. (Business developers) see that and they realize they want to get into the downtown area and invest their efforts. We’re seeing a lot of people trying to get in while it’s right.”
Juan Vazquez, the Juan’s Flaming Fajitas owner, said the Water Street location would differ from his Fort Apache location by having a modern décor, more gaming machines, homemade tortillas and live music 15 hours per week. With the surge of development, he is excited to be part of what he thinks will be a vibrant area.
“There isn’t a Mexican restaurant like us in the area,” he said. “We’ll be able to provide something new. We just want to be part of the revitalization process.”
This is in addition to Southend on Water, a mixed-use urban infill project downtown. The first of four phases of the project opened last spring with Public Works Coffee Bar and TSK Architects as tenants.
“Henderson has been looking at some diversification downtown with some mixed-use projects and we were down here for a year-and-a-half now with our office,” said Windom Kimsey, CEO and principal of TSK Architects, who is spearheading the Southend on Water project. “The economy picked up and we ran out of room at our office and began planning an addition.”
The second phase is underway with office space to accommodate TSK’s expansion and house Lage Design, a landscape design firm.
The third phase of the project includes housing, with construction scheduled to begin in September and be completed by next summer.
“The residential is a little different from what people are used to,” Kimsey said. “It’s row houses, and some of it is going to be rental and some will be privately owned. It’s like in Chicago, where you have these tall skinny houses that are right on the street, with some of them having shops on the ground floor.”
The eight planned units will include courtyards for public art, community gardens and unattached garages. The residential units will be situated on the top two floors of three-story buildings.
“That’s a big deal because that’s more mid- to high-paying jobs, professionals down here to support the businesses, restaurants, the retail — all of those feed off these young professionals,” Hobaica said. “They patronize a lot of these businesses downtown.”
Kimsey hopes to continue to spark interest in downtown Henderson and hopefully draw other developers to carry out similar projects.
“It’s an organic thing where this redevelopment happens,” he said. “I’ve seen it in so many cities, where they start small, and once it gets a life of its own you can’t stop it.”