Friday, March 26, 2010 | 6 a.m.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts is viewed as a catalyst in the transformation of downtown Las Vegas.
The center that will house the Nevada Ballet Theatre and Las Vegas Philharmonic starting in spring 2012 celebrated its topping out with a ceremony in late February. The $245 million center is considered an anchor of the 61-acre Symphony Park, a planned mixed-use development on land owned by the city of Las Vegas.
“The ability to transform any city overnight is pretty limited, but we do know those type of transformations occur in small steps,” said Brian Gordon, a principal with Applied Analysis. “I think this particular project is somewhat a big step in kicking off what is expected to begin the process of development in that area.”
The Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health serves as one anchor of downtown. The other is the Smith Center, which will make up 379,000 square feet of Symphony Park that has a 10 million square foot footprint. That includes 1.8 million of planned office and medical space, 4.5 million square feet of residential (3,100 units), two non-gaming hotels, one 1,000-plus room gaming hotel and 475,000 square feet of retail.
“I think it provides a level of diversity to an economy that is reeling from the downturn in tourism and construction industry,” Gordon said. “This is another step in the evolution of Las Vegas.”
John Restrepo, principal of Restrepo Consulting, said not only are there economic benefits of the Smith Center by attracting people to downtown, it also helps change the city’s image and attracts employees and employers.
“It sets a new tone by how the community is viewed from the outside world,” Restrepo said. “They can see Las Vegas is evolving and maturing and supports the arts.”
Symphony Park would happen without the Smith Center, but it and the Lou Ruvo Center are important anchors to hasten that, Restrepo said. It will take time as it has in other cities to transform aging downtowns, but history shows it can happen, he said.
“Transforming an urban area can take many years, and it doesn’t happen easily,” Restrepo said. “It takes a long-term political commitment. If you look at the Gas Lamp District in San Diego, it took 30 years. It takes time and political will.”
Rita Brandin, the senior vice president of Newland Communities, the project manager of Symphony Park, said the Smith Center reconfirms the vision of Symphony Park and it will become that anchor.
“A lot of people may not choose to live in an urban environment, but they will be coming to Symphony Park because of their love for arts,” Brandin said. “The Smith Center will be important to bring the valley together and in these times of not having a lot of construction occurring in the private sector, it is such a positive.”
The next phase of Symphony Park kicks off this summer when infrastructure improvements begin, Brandin said.
Symphony Park is planned to be the home of The Charlie Palmer boutique hotel, the World Jewelry Center and a casino and hotel developed by Forest City.
“We started working on this in 2006, and it is a 10- to 15-year project,” Brandin said. “It is not going to be built overnight.”