Las Vegas Sun

October 26, 2014

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Fifth Street School plan advances

The historic Fifth Street Grammar School took its first step Monday toward becoming a key downtown redevelopment project aimed at fostering the arts, literature and intellectual thought.

The Las Vegas City Council Real Estate Committee recommended that the full council on Wednesday approve a transfer of title of the vintage Spanish-style structure in the heart of the downtown area from the city to the city's Downtown Redevelopment Agency.

Although largely a housekeeping measure, the quitclaim deed sets in motion plans that eventually could create a downtown satellite campus for the University of Nevada, Las Vegas at the Fifth Street Grammar School site, 400 Las Vegas Blvd. South. The building is across from the George Federal Building in the city's so-called Government Corridor and near the Arts District.

"What this means is that we can start spending redevelopment funds on it," Scott Adams, who recently took over as chief of the city's Office of Business Development, said of the Fifth Street Grammar School building.

Adams said that he does not believe that plans to limit the structure to a center of intellectual ideals will hamper his office's efforts to find commercial tenants for the 37,000-square-foot building.

"My understanding is that it is an arts concept and I do not think it will be too difficult to find arts-related businesses and organizations that would want to relocate there."

At the same Real Estate Committee meeting, Councilmen Steve Wolfson and Lawrence Weekly recommended approval of an amendment to the city's contract with the Nevada Board of Regents to increase the UNLV School of Architecture's 975 square feet of space at the Fifth Street Grammar School by an additional 724 square feet. The college would take over the space currently known as Room 300.

The historic building, which opened in 1936 and was the elementary school for many of today's older and prominent Las Vegans, has been a government building since the 1960s. For years, Clark County utilized the site for overflow offices. Until late June, Metro Police used the building, but vacated it when the new Downtown Command Center opened at Ninth Street and Bonanza Road.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman has called the site of the Fifth Street Grammar School "my agora," a Greek word for a marketplace where ideas are exchanged.

Such a site could include an urban market with a bookstore and coffee shop and other UNLV programs that could create a satellite campus in the heart of downtown Las Vegas.

Another current tenant of the school is the International Institute of Modern Letters.

The Cities of Asylum, an affiliate of the International Network of Cities of Asylum that provides safe havens for writers and other artists whose works have caused them to be persecuted in their homelands, also has expressed an interest in obtaining space at the old school.

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