Las Vegas Sun

November 28, 2014

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How four valley areas could transform into thriving economic hubs

Four locations around the valley were announced today as prime targets for redevelopment as part of a multiyear planning process meant to help shape Southern Nevada’s future growth.

Downtown North Las Vegas, the Maryland Parkway corridor near UNLV, a stretch of Boulder Highway in Henderson and the Las Vegas medical district all have elements needed to turn into thriving economic hubs, said Stephanie Garcia-Vause in announcing the four opportunity sites Wednesday at a gathering of community leaders. But to fully reach their potential, they’ll need several elements the community must work to develop, including robust public transportation and affordable housing, she said.

Garcia-Vause’s remarks came during the annual summit meeting for Southern Nevada Strong, a planning initiative now entering its third and final year.

“I’d like to share with you our project, Southern Nevada Strong, which will have the opportunity to help us reset and rethink how we do things in Southern Nevada to shield us from events like what happened in the past and help us to provide a clear path forward to doing things differently,” said Garcia-Vause, the project director.

Southern Nevada Strong has spent the past two years researching the region and gathering input from the community, recently releasing a draft report outlining economic development goals and strategies.

Over the next year, the organization will work to finalize the plan and develop actionable steps that can be made to achieving the recommendations it outlines. The completed report is expected to be the first economic planning document covering Southern Nevada to receive federal recognition, qualifying the region for access to a new pool of government grants and programs.

At the top of the list for new redevelopment grants will be the four opportunity sites, which were chosen as model locations for the type of urban planning put forward by Southern Nevada Strong’s report.

The report — which drew input from thousands of citizens through surveys, plus dozens of government officials and business and nonprofit leaders — focuses on key areas of transportation, job creation and housing options.

The goal is to model neighborhoods that integrate public transit, affordable housing options and commercial space to make the area accessible and attractive to businesses and residents.

Speaking on a panel during Wednesday’s event, Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani envisioned a light rail train one day traveling along Maryland Parkway past UNLV and connecting hubs throughout the city.

“We need a multitude of modalities out there from walking, biking to light rail, whatever we can come up with,” she said.

Henderson Councilman John Marz said the vacant land near Boulder Highway and Gibson Road is teeming with opportunities for new housing and business developments, benefiting from its close proximity to several residential developments and the growing core of Henderson’s medical industry.

“It’s an area that is ideal because it is vacant land, it’s a blank canvas. We have the ability to do some exciting things there,” Marz said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for people to think outside of the box and say, ‘OK, now that we have a blank slate, what can we put there that is going to benefit the people in that area.'”

Giunchigliani, Marz and other panel members agreed that one of the most immediate benefits of the Southern Nevada Strong planning process has been the unification of local governments and agencies behind a shared goal, lessening the territorial competitiveness that has slowed economic development efforts.

“We compete falsely with each other more often than not,” Giunchigliani said. “What we have to do, what I think Southern Nevada Strong helped us do, is focus our energies on what will work so that as we go down the road and talk about how we finance this, we focus it back to the five or six points that really will work in this community.”

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