Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2011 | 11:22 a.m.
Map of Water Street District
S. Water Street, Henderson
On the corner of Basic Road and Pacific Avenue in Henderson sits a large, fenced-off concrete slab with pipes jutting from it.
The lot was meant to be the site of Parkline Lofts, a condominium development that was one of several ambitious projects meant to help revitalize and transform downtown Henderson with an influx of new residents.
But in the wake of the recession, developments like Parkline Lofts, Water Street Commons and City Tower have failed.
On Tuesday night, the City Council approved a contract to demolish the construction that was started at Parkline Lofts and wipe the slate clean.
The failure of these projects has set back the redevelopment efforts, but city officials point to the success of smaller, locally owned business along downtown’s Water Street as a sign that redevelopment is happening, nonetheless, and that better days are ahead.
“If you drive down Water Street, it looks a lot different than it did 10 years ago,” Redevelopment Manager Michelle Romero said. “We’ve had businesses struggle...We’ve lost some large projects, but I think the difference is, even though we lost large projects, smaller projects have gone forward.”
Slowly, the elements the city hopes will make up the core of downtown are taking shape. An outdoor events plaza was built and hundreds of thousands of people visit the corridor each year for car shows, musical performances and cultural celebrations.
Doctor’s offices, a bakery, sewing stores, soap shops and restaurants have all moved in over the past few years.
A multi-year expansion of Water Street that brought widened sidewalks, benches for sitting and better lighting will be completed in September.
Overall, the redevelopment agency has spent more than $60 million since 1995 on the downtown zone, an area roughly bounded by Lake Mead Boulevard, Burkholder Boulevard and Greenway Road.
But the agency still has 15 years left on its plan and is developing a revised investment strategy to be released toward the end of this year.
When finished, officials hope, downtown will be a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly corridor populated by locally owned businesses.
“The end goal is to have an area that’s thriving...with a unique mix of businesses that attract people and liven the street,” Romero said.
But before downtown can realize those goals, it will go through some growing pains.
The street-improvement construction has choked off foot traffic to many businesses along the northern part of Water Street.
“It’s been devastating,” Chere Pedersen said.
Pedersen and her husband own Chef Flemming’s Bake Shop on Water Street. She said they chose to move to downtown Henderson because they were excited by the opportunities for growth in the area.
“We thought all this was going to build up in the next year,” she said. “And then it all stopped.”
The construction has slowed traffic to the bake shop and there are still many amenities downtown is lacking to be a fully livable community — like a grocery store, a movie theater and more nightlife options, she said.
“What we want is foot traffic — for people to be able to come down here and be able to walk from shop to shop,” she said.
Pedersen still has high hopes for the future and is working with the city and other business owners to help shape the next phases of development.
Bonnie Grant, a Farmer’s Insurance agent with an office on Water Street, said development has progressed slower than she hoped. But the city is moving in the right direction by building a community among business owners who can assist each other, she said.
“I think there’s still some work that needs to be done...but I’m very hopeful. Time’s are tough, but I believe the future is bright,” she said.
Councilwoman Geri Schroder, who represents the downtown district, said she understands businesses are anxious to see more tangible progress of development. But she emphasized that the project has at least 15 years to go and that substantial progress has already been made.
“We want to make sure businesses that come here are successful, and we’re doing everything we can,” she said. “The future doesn’t happen overnight.”