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Chris Sieroty

Downtown redevelopment takes center stage at Smith Center

1 May 2013

LAS VEGAS -- The Strip may get most of the attention, but its neighbor to the north, downtown Las Vegas, continues a major transformation as investors and developers pour hundreds of millions of dollars into redevelopment.

A change that hasn’t gone unnoticed by locals and tourists drawn to the neighborhood’s unique cocktail lounges, restaurants, one-of-a-kind boutiques and renovated casinos.

“A lot has changed here,” Bill Arent, director of economic and urban development with the city of Las Vegas, said Tuesday. “Downtown Las Vegas has been defined by gaming.... It’s defined by more things now.”

Arent said downtown is about its skyscape and landscape. A skyline that includes The Smith Center for the Performing Arts, Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, World Market Center, The Molasky Corporate Center, a new City Hall and Bonneville Transit Center.

An evolving landscape with 18B, the city’s 18-block Arts District, Fremont Street East and Symphony Park.

“Fremont Street is a draw for both out-of-town visitors and locals,” Arent told about 250 attendees of the Resurgence of Downtown Las Vegas & Fremont Street East panel discussion Tuesday at Cabaret Jazz at the Smith Center.

“A sense of place is important,” he said. “Symphony Park is not just the center of a city, but a center for the region. The sense of place for the entire community.”

Arent was joined by Jeanne Markel, director Downtown Team with; Seth Schorr, CEO of Fifth Street Gaming; Jeff Victor, president and general manager Fremont Street Experience; and Richard Worthington, president and COO of The Molasky Group of Companies.

John Guedry, president and COO of Bank of Nevada, moderated the discussion.

Markel said Zappos will complete its move into its new downtown headquarters in the old City Hall by October. She said Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh also remains committed to “building a campus from scratch” for his 1,500 employees in downtown Las Vegas.

The company has about 250 employees spread out over two floors at 302 E. Carson Ave.

“We want to be able to recruit and retain (quality) employees,” Markel said.

The Molasky Group of Companies is well known downtown, building the Bank of America Plaza on 4th Street in 1975. The company returned to downtown in 2005 with the IRS building on five acres on Grand Central Parkway near F Street and U.S. Highway 95.

The company followed a few years later with the 17-story, 300,000-square-foot Molasky Corporate Center. Worthington said The Molasky Group’s next project will be The Residences at Downtown on just over two acres near Casino Center.

The plans call for 190 units to be built with an urban density of 70 units to the acre, he said.

“We believe this is feasible,” Worthington said. “There is a need for moderate priced housing. But there is a long way to go to make it feasible.”