Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2014

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Expanding downtown Las Vegas redevelopment area would boost nearby communities, official says

The redevelopment area that has played a key role in revitalizing downtown Las Vegas could be expanding to help provide funding for outlying neighborhoods.

A total of 539 acres across nearly 1,000 parcels could be added to the existing 4,000-acre redevelopment area, which would make them eligible to receive redevelopment agency-funded improvements and grants.

The land is scattered around the outskirts of the core downtown in council wards 3 and 5, including along East Charleston Boulevard, East Sahara Avenue and in the West Las Vegas neighborhood.

“We have a resource for reinvesting into capital projects. (It could be) something that’s as straightforward as improving a business storefront,” said Bill Arent, Las Vegas economic and urban development director. “We can put money into physical infrastructure, everything from street beautification to landscaping, pedestrian enhancements and bike lanes.”

The Las Vegas City Council heard the expansion proposal during a redevelopment agency meeting Tuesday morning. Several more public meetings will be held on the expansion and a final map including the new parcels could be voted on in September.

Projects in the downtown redevelopment area, which was created in 1986, are paid for using a portion of property tax revenue that is collected from the area and then reinvested in improvements.

The redevelopment funding, which totals $166 million since collections began, has contributed to several large projects, including the Smith Center, the Mob Museum and the World Market Center, while also providing assistance to dozens of small-business owners.

Councilman Ricki Barlow, whose ward includes some of parcels in the proposed expansion, said he supports increasing access to redevelopment funding in these areas.

“It’s a tool that can benefit older communities that lack the opportunity for development or private investment to come into the area,” he said.

Downtown residents and business owners who weighed in on the discussion Tuesday morning expressed mix feelings about being included in the redevelopment area.

While many were excited for potential public improvement projects and access to redevelopment grants, others questioned how being included would affect property taxes or if it might lead to the city using eminent domain to seize properties for development in the future.

Arent said the city doesn’t use eminent domain as part of its redevelopment strategy and that property owners wouldn’t have to pay more taxes to be included in the redevelopment area.

He added that any property owner being considered for inclusion has the option to opt out of the redevelopment area.

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