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April 18, 2014

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New Las Vegas City Hall dedication a highlight of downtown development

Night dedication highlights artistic light display on structure’s facade

Image

Steve Marcus

Politicians, officials and guests watch a light show during the dedication of the new city hall in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 5, 2012.

New City Hall Dedicated

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman, former Mayor Oscar Goodman and former City Councilman Gary Reese unveil a building dedication plaque during the dedication of the new city hall in downtown Las Vegas Monday, March 5, 2012. Launch slideshow »

New Las Vegas City Hall

It was an event to dedicate the opening of the new Las Vegas City Hall, a glassy, futuristic, solar-powered structure that celebrates the city's noted sunshine by day and illuminates its neon heritage by night.

"It's certainly a beautiful building that every citizen in Las Vegas can be proud of," Mayor Carolyn Goodman told a gathering of several hundred people Monday night.

But the event was about much more than the seven-story, $185 million building at at 495 S. Main Street.

"This stately building is a part of the ongoing urban renaissance that we are fortunately enough enjoying in and across our downtown," Goodman said.

The downtown is seeing a rebirth that includes a new concert hall and children's museum in nearby Symphony Park and a variety of other downtown commercial and cultural projects that will open this year, she said.

"While 2012 is the year of downtown, it is only the beginning of the transformation of Las Vegas and the entire community into the world-class city it deserves to become," Goodman said.

Those on hand for the celebration included current and former city council members, those who worked on the building project from Forest City Enterprises and even the architect who designed it, Howard Elkus.

The mayor also gave a tribute to her husband, former Mayor Oscar Goodman.

The former mayor, who helped his wife unveil a dedication plaque, pushed the controversial project forward during a down economic time, winning support from the council members and securing low-interest federal Build America bonds to finance it.

The building dedication was held in the evening to showcase the electronic light display on the front of the building.

At the end of the speeches, LED lights on glass fins on the building counted down to a rendition of "God Bless America" that boomed out over the gathering. Red, white and blue light undulated across the building façade, creating the effect of a waving flag.

The dedication ceremony also featured other artistic patterns made by the lights, concluding with what looked like waves of water flowing over the front of the building.

Tours were given after the ceremony through the building's public spaces, including the main entryway, the new city council chambers that will be used for a council meeting for the first time on Wednesday and a balcony off the seventh floor.

Energy efficient building

"This is an incredible night for us all," the mayor said.

She said the energy efficient building, which features 33 "solar trees" in the front that generate electricity, will reduce the energy costs by more than $400,000 a year.

The new green design will avoid emitting more than 2,400 metric tons of greenhouse gases annually into the atmosphere, she said.

The solar trees in the front, plus a solar array on the building's roof, produce about 290,000 kilowatt hours of power for the building annually, she said.

'Catalyst' for more jobs

During construction, the City Hall project created more than 1,900 construction jobs, she said. But those jobs "were just the tip of the iceberg" created by the public building project.

"They are the catalyst for four mixed-use redevelopment projects that are projected to bring more than 13,000 new permanent jobs to our city of Las Vegas, $4.1 billion in private investment and $16 million to $20 million in new tax revenue," she said.

Goodman said that by building the City Hall, the way was made clear for the old City Hall at 400 Stewart Avenue to become the new corporate home for online shoe and clothing retailer Zappos.com.

Zappos plans to initially bring about 1,200 employees downtown. Zappos and its parent company, Amazon.com, have the opportunity to purchase adjacent city-owned land across Las Vegas Boulevard from the old City Hall site if they want to expand, Goodman said.

Future development

The new City Hall is also the anchor of what Forest City Enterprises plans to be a five-block development area of new office and retail space located just across the street to the south, she said.

Forest City also plans to eventually build a casino-hotel on the north end of Symphony Park, which she said "is quickly becoming a new urban core."

Commercial and cultural projects

Goodman also talked about the efforts of CIM and Resort Gaming Group to reopen the former Lady Luck resort as the Downtown Grand, which is next to the new downtown Mob Museum.

"This Mob Museum has hit the ground running and in the first week had 10,000 visitors — paying visitors," she said. "It is truly incredible that within a few weeks, we will have seen the openings of that Mob Museum, this City Hall and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

"Any one of these projects would be something special for a city to crow about. And we are the envy of cities around this country."

She said the city also can look forward to the openings of the Discovery Children's Museum and the Neon Museum later this year.

'Great public building'

Eric Louttit, vice president of real estate services for Forest City, said that at a time when more than half of the world's population lives in urban areas, successful American cities are more important than ever.

"It begins with great public buildings, like this one behind me," he said. "These buildings raise the bar and establish a benchmark for future development. But more important, they signal the qualities and values of a city and its people."

Symbolizing past, present and future

Howard Elkus, the building's chief architect, said the building was designed with the vision of Oscar Goodman and the city council in mind. Elkus said he flew out to Las Vegas to have lunch with Goodman to learn of his vision and "that lunch was the most memorable meal I've ever had."

Elkus said the former mayor's vision was to build a world-class home for the city's government, "which would be a manifestation of open government to serve the people of Las Vegas and celebrate the rich diversity of the city's population."

Elkus said the City Hall needed to have a meaning that connected citizens with their heritage, with the present and with the future.

The past represented in the building draws from where Las Vegas derives its name — from the meadows once fed by an underground springs that attracted the original native residents, the Paiute Nation, Elkus said. The formal city council chambers structure was inspired by the springs, represented by the metallic ribbon ceilings in the chamber and the ceiling of the lobby's great room, he said.

The ribbon's variegated colors symbolize the diversity of the population. And the reflective surfaces among the ceiling's panels will showcase the uniqueness of all who enter, he said.

For the present, Elkus said he looked at nearby Hoover Dam, which helped to shape Las Vegas into a modern city.

The dam and the walls of black canyon that embrace it are represented in the main structure of the City Hall through the horizontal bands of the north face of the building, which symbolize the earth's layers. The vertical glass fins on the plaza façade signify the huge drop in the Colorado River water level that the dam's turbines transform into electric energy, he said.

"The past and present merge in the great room," he said.

The horizontal veining of the stone floors and walls recalls the layers of time spelled out in the canyon walls, he said.

The illuminated glass sculpture of the grand staircase speaks of the energy of the Colorado River and as if hidden within, one can see the image of the gigantic blocks of concrete that form the dam, he said.

The future is represented in the building's solar features, he said. The sun is representing in the rays flowing along the building's east wing plaza façade onto the photovoltaic trees that shade the plaza and form its great space, he said.

"At nightfall, as if the falling water of the dam magically evaporates in the solar panels of the treetops, the energy created by the panels illuminates the glass fins of the building façade in an ever-changing display of color, creating a new landmark in the city's world famed heritage of light," he said.

A sense of pride

Although he didn't speak at the ceremony, Oscar Goodman was on hand to participate in the dedication, joining his wife to unveil the building dedication plaque.

After the event, Goodman talked privately about his visit to Rome several years ago, when the mayor there showed him such sites as the Palatine Hills, where Romulus and Remus were said to have been born, and the Forum, where the great debates took place.

"And I said to him, you know Mayor, when you come to see me, I'll show you U.S. 95 and I-15," Goodman said, joking.

But that has changed — Las Vegas can now be proud of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, the Smith Center for the Performing Arts and the new City Hall, Goodman said.

"Now we have great medicine, we have great culture, we have a great civic building," he said, "and I'm very proud of Las Vegas."

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