Rendering courtesy of the Neon Museum
Wednesday, May 15, 2019 | 3:06 p.m.
The Neon Museum is booming. This fiscal year, 245,000 people visited the downtown museum known for its collection of vintage and historically significant signs from Las Vegas’ past.
In the midst of this growth in popularity, Neon Museum officials announced a new venture, made possible in part by the City of Las Vegas: Neon2020.
The Las Vegas City Council unanimously approved an agreement today to rent the closed Reed Whipple Cultural Center on Las Vegas Boulevard to the Neon Museum across the street. The expansion will allow the museum to double its current footprint.
Under the agreement with the city, the museum will pay the city $1 a year for the next three years to use and rehabilitate Reed Whipple, with a possibility for renewing the lease for 27 years. The City Council also voted to award the nonprofit museum with a $2.2 million grant to help with its operations.
Through Neon2020, the Neon Museum plans to transform the Reed Whipple Cultural Center, which has been closed since 2016, into an indoor gallery, classrooms, offices and space to store some of the more than 15,000 artifacts in its possession. Construction is set to begin this summer, with the first phase of the project expected to be completed early next year.
The finished building will be called “Ne10,” a nod to neon’s chemical symbol and atomic number.
Museum staff envision that Ne10 and the existing Neon Museum property, housed in part in the lobby of the former La Concha Motel, will coexist as a single cultural hub and museum. Preserving and highlighting parallel architectural elements of both buildings will be a top priority for the project, said Curt Carlson, vice chair of the museum’s Board of Trustees and an architect for Ne10.
“One of the primary aspects of this renovation is to preserve the original midcentury design characteristics with the [new] building, and strengthen the ties between the La Concha shell across the street,” Carlson told the City Council.
In addition to expanding into Reed Whipple, the museum plans to open another “boneyard” outside Reed Whipple, where it will display even more Las Vegas signs that are currently packed away in storage.
There are also plans to grow the existing building’s footprint. The museum is looking to develop 30-foot steel grids around the perimeter walls of its existing outdoor boneyard and attach historic signs to the grids, thereby allowing visitors to view more artifacts at once.
Possible signs to be added through this expansion include those from the closed Las Vegas Club and Binion’s, according to a press release from the museum.
Founded in 1996, the Neon Museum employs 60 people and is in the process of becoming accredited with the American Association of Museums, said CEO Rob McCoy.
“We’re becoming not only a national museum, but we’re becoming an international museum,” he said of the museum’s growth.
City councilors praised museum officials for their ambitious vision for the museum and their commitment to investing downtown and in Ward 5, where the museum is located.
“I just want to thank you for taking over a very valuable property and turning it into something that’s going to be a reinvestment into the community,” said Councilman Cedric Crear, who represents Ward 5.