If the revitalization of old Vegas were a magic act (and it kind of is), Downtown Project would be Penn and the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency would be Teller. One makes a lot more noise than the other, but they both do amazing things.
DTP wouldn’t have much to build on were it not for the LVRDA, which formed in 1986. Downtown was a poster child for urban decay then, and the independent agency created crucial infrastructure, funding platforms and guidance programs that paved the way for private dollars—and the public benefits that come with them.
The LVRDA bought and sold land to spur development, from Molasky Corporate Center to Juhl. It issued bonds to finance major public undertakings like the Smith Center and the greater master plan for Symphony Park. It modified building standards to suit residential projects like SoHo and Newport, and it worked with the city on a novel Entertainment District that attracted Fremont East anchors like Beauty Bar.
The LVRDA’s Visual Improvement Program matched funds so Faciliteq could transform the exterior of an old auto-body shop to reflect its sleek showroom and coworking center. The agency’s new initiative, Quick Start, helped La Comida turn a laundromat into a restaurant by offsetting repair costs and streamlining review processes to bring the space up to code. And through strategic partnerships with real-estate giants like Forest City Enterprises and CIM Group, more than $2 billion in private capital has been invested in Downtown.
And yes, the LVRDA collaborates with Downtown Project, whether referring startups to their programs or asking for feedback on its own. So says Bill Arent, director of the city’s Economic and Urban Development Department, which houses the LVRDA.
“We want to be supportive where support’s needed and then get out of the way and not overregulate and let things happen as much as we can,” says Arent, who has been in the trenches of Downtown revitalization for more than a decade. “It’s been really rewarding to see the local community embrace Downtown, come to Downtown in droves to have a meal, to have a good time, to open up a small business. ... It’s been really exciting to see, and there’s more work that needs to be done.”