Las Vegas Sun

April 21, 2014

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Selling of Midtown UNLV is under way

The consensus building has begun.

Midtown UNLV, the colossal revitalization project of Maryland Parkway between Harmon and Tropicana avenues, is years -- even decades -- away from its ultimate vision of being a "premiere cultural and social gathering in and around the community campus," UNLV President Carol Harter said.

But the beginnings of change may just be a couple of years down the road, and Harter and Las Vegas developer Michael Saltman are wasting no time selling the vision to the Board of Regents, Clark County officials, university stakeholders and, most importantly, the small business owners up and down Maryland Parkway who have to buy into the plan.

Harter and Saltman presented the plan to the Board of Regents at their meeting at Western Nevada Community College Friday. Two weeks ago, they hosted a roundtable of developers, business owners, university officials and Clark County government representatives to brainstorm ideas for the project.

That roundtable focused on getting everyone involved to buy into the ultimate goal of creating a place that would attract the creative class of Las Vegas, those writers, artists, musicians, architects, scholars and other professionals who can have a significant impact on the culture and economy of a city.

Several more roundtables and focus groups, both within the university and with community members and business owners, are in the works, Harter and Saltman said.

"All of the stakeholders have to be involved," Saltman said.

Saltman has also hired Neil Giuliano, the former mayor of Tempe, Ariz., to oversee the project. Giuliano presided as mayor during the bulk of Tempe's own revitalization of Mill Street in front of Arizona State University.

Consensus is important, Saltman said, because of the project's private-public nature. There will be no imminent domain issues in the project, but Saltman said he is open to buying up other businesses that do no want to be a part of it, or to entering into partnerships with businesses that want financial help revitalizing their storefronts or expanding their own properties.

Saltman is currently working with tenants in his own shopping center, the Promenade, on the west side of Maryland Parkway at Harmon Avenue, to mitigate any negative impact on them by his own redevelopment of the property. Saltman plans to tear down the center and put in a mid-rise development that would include retail, office space and housing.

Construction on that project is still another 12 to 18 months away, Saltman said.

UNLV, meanwhile, is finalizing plans and beginning construction on several buildings that will be part of redevelopment on the university's side of Maryland Parkway, Harter said. The new $60 million Greenspun College of Urban Affairs, if approved by the Legislature, will be a showcase building right at the front of campus, Harter said. The Greenspun Family Foundation, which has donated $25 million to the building, is excited about being part of the redevelopment, both Saltman and Harter said. The Greenspun family owns the Sun.

The new college building, along with a new Moyer Student Union and recreation center, will all be mixed-use facilities with retail and food services, Harter said. Most of the facilities will be finished by late 2006 or 2007.

The university is also negotiating with Glenn Schaeffer, founder of the Institute for Modern Letters at UNLV, to build a new facility at Cottage Grove and Maryland Parkway that would capture the same architectural nuances of both the university buildings and the Saltman project, Harter said.

The Schaeffer project, currently being called the Black Mountain Institute, would be a modern, modular type building with unique shapes and bold colors, Harter said.

The university is also looking at plans to redesign its main entrance at Harmon, Harter said.

Saltman said he's committed to seeing the project through in his lifetime.

"This vision is a dream with a deadline," Saltman said. "I've got limited years on the planet."

Key to the entire redevelopment project, however, is reducing the six-lanes of traffic on Maryland Parkway directly in front of the university, both Saltman and Harter said. Both are working with Clark County Manager Thom Reilly, Commissioner Myrna Williams, the county Public Works department and the Regional Transportation Commission.

Traffic studies will begin on Maryland Parkway later this summer, Reilly said.

Reilly and regents have reacted enthusiastically to the plan and said they look forward to seeing it happen.

"Harking back to my childhood, this is just really cool," Regent Doug Hill of Sparks said.

"I'm not sure if its possible, but by golly if there's a place that can do it it's Las Vegas."

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