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April 19, 2014

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Goodman upbeat for Las Vegas in farewell State of the City address

Mayor says Ruvo brain institute will help usher in economic diversity by creating medical tourism

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Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman arrives with showgirls to deliver the annual State of the City address at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.

State of the City

KSNV coverage of Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman's final State of the City address, Jan. 11, 2011.

State of the City 2011

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman waves before leaving the stage with showgirls after delivering the annual State of the City address at the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health in downtown Las Vegas on Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman brought his own entertainment for his final State of the City address Tuesday night — two showgirls, his signature martini glass and a few dozen wisecracks.

But Goodman also brought a serious retrospective to the event, reminding those gathered that despite the recent recession, the city's core downtown has turned around on his watch over the last 11 1/2 years.

"We're a very resilient community. We're a community that bounces back. We're a community that says yes. There's no such thing as 'I can't' or 'no'," the mayor said.

He cited such projects as the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health — where Tuesday night's semi-formal event was held — calling it the "most important building in the history of Southern Nevada."

The project was built on what once was a contaminated brownfield, the former Union Pacific rail yard that the city acquired, cleaned up and renamed Symphony Park.

Goodman said he had the opportunity to be on hand when architect Frank Gehry, the Ruvo building's designer, got his first look at the interior of the finished building's auditorium.

"He looked up, he looked around and saw what he had created — basically a cathedral in the middle of the desert," Goodman said. "And tears came to his eyes, he was so impressed."

Goodman said the best physicians in the country were coming to the facility and working on cutting-edge research on early detection of Alzheimer's disease.

In July, the Cleveland Clinic will bring in more physicians who begin doing research to treat Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis, he said.

The Ruvo facility will not only bring the city world-wide acclaim as a brain research institute but help the city diversify its economy by creating medical tourism, he said.

In doing so, the city has entered into a memorandum of understanding with the Cleveland Clinic in talking about expanding onto three more parcels of land in Symphony Park, going east toward the Union Pacific tracks, he said.

Goodman also talked about such projects as the new City Hall, the Mob Museum and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts bringing new jobs, new vitality and a new sense of culture to the downtown's core.

And he talked about all the recent improvements on East Fremont Street in the downtown — a change that attracted Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh to decide to move his corporate headquarters from Henderson to downtown.

"It took 13 years for us to be an overnight success," Goodman said, getting laughs.

Zappos' move to the current City Hall building is expected to take place in 2012, bringing about 1,000 more workers downtown.

"For the first time in downtown Las Vegas, we are going to have what I refer to as a critical mass," Goodman said. "We're going to have people."

People will move to the downtown area to live and work and spawn more businesses such as grocery stores and dry cleaning operations, he said.

He also revealed a few projects that are in the works for the coming year.

One project he said he was authorized to reveal was that the Lady Luck hotel and casino developer Andrew Donner, CEO of Gaming Group, is currently in negotiations with Hilton Worldwide to retool the hotel tower, possibly as a Doubletree Hotel, Goodman said.

"Those naysayers who say that no new hotels are going to be built for the next five years in this community are full of ... soup," Goodman said, getting laughs.

And he said, to bring others downtown, the city is also involved in a project with the Clark County School District.

They are considering building a high school in the 61-acre Symphony Park for the district's top academically talented 200 ninth- through 12th-graders.

Ruvo Center Opens

Balloons containing memories written on strips of paper are released at the grand opening of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health Friday, May 21, 2010 in Las Vegas. Launch slideshow »

"If you have an excellent academic institution, folks who are interested in having a wonderful education for their children will flock to it," he said. That's proven true in some of the local private schools and some of the city's magnet public schools, he said.

"I believe once construction starts, smart people will be coming into the downtown area," he said.

They would join the interesting mix of people employed by Zappos who author Richard Florida would call the "creative class" and move downtown, Goodman said.

He also said that celebrity chef Charlie Palmer has indicated that he would move up the timetable to build a boutique non-gaming hotel in Symphony Park. Last year, the City Council agreed to allow the 426-room hotel to be put on hold for at least two years and as long as four years, until the economy recovered.

During a news conference after the event, Goodman told reporters that he decided not to mention the possibility of a sports team moving to Las Vegas in his farewell State of the City address.

He said that's because the city's developer, the Cordish Companies, is in the process of negotiating to bring a professional team to Symphony Park.

"By the time we're through, we'll have a sports team down there; we'll have an arena. There's no question in my mind," he said. "I left that out because I was asked to. There were discussions taking place today back East."

Goodman said the economy is bottoming out and will be on the upswing as he leaves office this year.

"I think the new mayor is gonna have the best of it in a year or so," he said. "I think Las Vegas will be back and stronger than ever."

Lady Luck Renovation

An artist's rendering of the renovations planned to the downtown Lady Luck property. Launch slideshow »

Asked if his wife would be running for office — some have speculated she might run for mayor — he declined comment, saying reporters would need to talk to her.

So far, two current office-holders have announced they want the job: Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross and Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown. The filing period runs from 8 a.m. Jan. 25 to 5 p.m. Feb. 4. The filing fee is $100. A primary will be April 5, and if no one receives a majority of the vote, a runoff between the top finishers will occur in the June 7 municipal general election.

Goodman wouldn't be specific about what he plans to do once he leaves office in July, saying he had "been treated like royalty. I love every single moment of the job."

Asked if he might decide to run for the Clark County Commission if Brown wins and leaves an opening there, Goodman declined to commit.

However, the 71-year-old mayor he said his health is "great" and he couldn't rule out a possible run for another office in the future, saying he's learned to "never say never."

For his immediate future after leaving office, he said, he had several ideas, which include publishing a children's book about a mob lawyer. He said he's also had offers to be involved in TV projects, such as judge shows or even opening a speakeasy.

"I'm too young for my obituary to be written. I've got too much energy in me and I'm going to be around for a long, long time," he said. "It's not bittersweet. It's sweet."

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  1. "I believe once construction starts (on a new magnet school), smart people will be coming into the downtown area...they would join the interesting mix of people employed by Zappos...and move to the downtown."

    One of the most exciting things you said tonight, Mayor Goodman. The smart and cultured people who already make central Las Vegas home will welcome this amazing development. The Las Vegas Academy has been a great thing for Downtown, and an AT school at Symphony Park will be similarly impressive.

    Thank you for your dedication and vision.

  2. It is truly sad to see Oscar leave office. He has single handedly changed the course of Las Vegas especially Downtown for the better. He is a statesman that we will never forget.

    I wish the next Mayor the best of luck, because you will have a huge Cocktail glass to fill...

  3. I wish we could keep Mr. Goodman in office. He is the best mayor we could have for our image as the world's playground. We will miss him. As for the Vegas economy, there is little any Mayor can do to counter the economic carnage being perpetrated upon Nevada, and especially the Las Vegas Valley, by the central government. Only drastic changes in Congress and the White House will give us a chance to recover from the liberals' devastation over the past 4 years.

  4. Seen him last Sunday night on tv for the first time. He impressed me as being a gregarious Old fart. Like we are supposed laugh at every thing he said. He did not impress me as someone deserved much respect. But that is only my opinion.