Las Vegas Sun

January 25, 2015

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2020 Vision:

Urban planner: Dreams for Nevada rest on waking change


Justin M. Bowen

Robert Fielden says Las Vegas can become “a world-class city.”

Futurists are always the first to tell you anything can happen. But the likelihood of change generally follows one of three paths.

The first track is the status quo: We continue doing what we’ve always done. In these times of dramatic global change, if we wait for good times to once again magically reappear, we’ll be waiting forever. In 2020 we’ll be like Detroit is today — passed over and left behind.

The second potential track is downward. Downward trends are frequently set off by disasters, either natural or man-made: earthquakes, exhausted natural resources or tragic human-caused occurrences such as Three Mile Island or Chernobyl. For Las Vegas, it could be the loss of water from Lake Mead or a severe earthquake that exposes the ground water to radiation poisoning. It could be a result of human action, like a deadly E. coli outbreak at a series of resorts or an epidemic of Legionnaires’ disease.

The third future option is the track I support — the path upward. This path means that as a community and a state, we must awaken with the recognition we have to change, and we have to begin changing now.

As of today, however, I don’t think we’re quite yet awake. Until the entire community rises up and becomes willing to take on the challenges ahead, the remainder of us need to get out of bed, get the coffee going and start breakfast.

Here’s what I think we can accomplish by 2020.

Through a communitywide visioning process supported at the grass roots by citizens as well as the business community, and through the combined efforts of all of the area chambers of commerce, Las Vegas will become a world-class city.

Resorts will become our second-largest tourist attraction. The greater attraction will be a community of more than 2 million residents and a million visitors each day operating entirely off the energy grid. Visitors will be touring the World Energy Technology Trade Center that is now part of the Las Vegas Convention Center and UNLV, where the new smart electrical grid was developed using focal beamed electrons in lieu of traditional transmission lines.

Tourists will also be here to see the archaeological and historical research under way in a variety of locations in Vias Verde, the world’s largest urban open space ring that loops the Las Vegas Valley. Many of them will be participating as volunteer scientists in the endeavors while living temporarily in campsites located along the ring.

Younger children in elementary and middle schools will be attending learning centers within safe and secure settings where they can walk to and from school each day. Older students will use public transit to attend combined high school and community college campuses. Every valley student will graduate with an associate degree and enter a meaningful career track in science, technology, human studies or the arts.

Every child will have a home — and every parent will be employed.

It should happen!

Robert Fielden is an architect and an urban planning expert.

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