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«Prepared for:  City of Las Vegas  MainStreet Las Vegas  Las Vegas Arts and Cultural District          Adopted December, 2010  ...»

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Las Vegas

Downtown Action Plan

A Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan

Prepared for: 

City of Las Vegas 

MainStreet Las Vegas 

Las Vegas Arts and Cultural District 





Adopted December, 2010 



City of Las Vegas, New Mexico 

Mayor and City Council 

Mayor Alfonso E. Ortiz, Jr. 

Councilor Tonita Gurule Giron  Councilor Andrew Feldman 

Councilor Diane Moore  Councilor David Romero  City Manager  Timothy P. Dodge    Community Development Department    Elmer Martinez, Director      Melanie Gallegos, Planner      MainStreet Las Vegas  Cindy Collins, Executive Director    Downtown Action Plan Steering Committee  Elmer Martinez  Roy Montibon  Wid Slick  Jose Maestas  Cindy Collins  Marisol Greene  David Escudero  Martha Johnsen  Jonathan Whitten  David Lobdell  Rick Rubio   Martin Sena 


  Consultant Team                In association with  Harwick Transportation Group  Spears Architects  ConsultEcon Ltd  Common Bond Preservation  Milagro Design  Lindsey Hill,

–  –  –

Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 1 Table of Contents    Acknowledgements 


Table of Contents 

1. Introduction 

2. Existing Conditions and Asset Inventory 


3. Community Participation 

4. Recommendations and Redevelopment Projects 

5. Funding Sources 

6. Implementation 

7. Appendix 

    Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 2

1. Introduction  The Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan (LVDAP) defines the community's vision for the downtown and  identifies priority projects and programs to revitalize the downtown area. The Action Plan examines  existing conditions and assets, recommends redevelopment projects and implementation strategies and  identifies funding sources for downtown's future improvements. The recommendations and strategies  are intended to help achieve the following vision and goals developed by the community through an  extensive participatory planning process:  The New Mexico Metropolitan Redevelopment Code (3‐60A‐1 to 3‐60A‐48 NMSA 1978) provides cities  in New Mexico with the powers to correct conditions in areas or neighborhoods within municipalities  which “substantially inflict or arrest the sound and orderly development” within the city. These powers  can help reverse and area’s decline and stagnation; however, the City may only use these powers within  designated Metropolitan Redevelopment Areas (MRA). Designation of an MRA is based on findings of  blighted conditions, as defined in the Metropolitan Redevelopment Code (3‐60S‐8), which include  physical as well as economic conditions.   Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 3   In June, 2010 the City Council approved the Las Vegas Downtown Metropolitan Redevelopment Area  Designation Report.  This report concluded that this area demonstrated existing conditions within the  downtown Las Vegas that met the criteria for the underutilized and low performing area designation as  defined by the NM Metropolitan Redevelopment Code statute.  The conditions existing in the  downtown “substantially impair the sound growth and economic health and well being” of the Las  Vegas area.    The adoption of the Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan as a Metropolitan Redevelopment Area Plan will  assist the community in achieving the following goals:   Elimination of detrimental public health and welfare conditions.   Conservation, improvement and expansion of commercial building stock.   Expansion of commercial activity    Improvement and expansion of available housing.   Improvement of economic conditions through coordinated public and private investments.  The Las Vegas Downtown MRA Designation Report is included in the Appendix of this plan.      Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 4 Downtown Las Vegas Vision Statement:  Historic downtown unites Las Vegas and continues to be the cultural heart of our diverse community.   Our heritage and traditions have spanned the centuries and sustain our multicultural identity.  It is the  place where the community lives, works and gathers for creative expression, entertainment and  enterprise.  Our youth, elders and families keep the downtown streets, plaza and river walk alive with  music festivals and cultural activities.  The acequias flow and the train brings friends and visitors here  with a sense of coming home.  The community and visitors contribute to the success of our eclectic shops,  artistic and entertainment venues, museums and historic buildings.     Downtown Action Plan Goals:   Encourage the restoration and renovation of existing buildings for adaptive reuses while  maintaining the character of the original building.     Encourage through‐traffic to visit downtown.     Create a vibrant street life.     Create a transportation network (walking, biking, trolleys, buses and horse‐drawn carriages) that  provide interconnected linkages through downtown from the Depot to the Plaza Park.      Celebrate our cultural heritage and history in a way that benefits the community economically  and involves the residents and visitors.      Revitalize downtown as an attractive, sustainable and walkable destination that serves the  needs of the community.     Create vibrant and attractive gathering places that encourage people to hang out and socialize.     Incorporate sustainability as a guiding principal through the innovative use of our resources.      Encourage residential living in the historic commercial corridor.      Downtown Action Plan and MRA Plan Boundary  The Downtown Action Plan focuses on the historic commercial areas of Las Vegas including the Historic  Plaza District, Railroad Avenue Historic District, Bridge Street Historic District, and the Douglas‐Sixth  Street Historic District. The Plan boundary is based on the market area of MainStreet Las Vegas and  opportunity sites identified during the community planning process.     The Downtown MRA plan boundary is contained within the DAP boundary and is the area that meets  the criteria as defined in the NM redevelopment Code.       

–  –  –

While Las Vegas, New Mexico is known as a gritty town that played a central role in many wild west  adventures, its real story is the history of trade, and the rise and fall of various modes of trade and  transportation. Las Vegas has two major periods of history: an early era as a stopping point for traders  heading west on the Santa Fe Trail, and a later period as a major stopping point on the Atchison, Topeka  & Santa Fe Railway.    These multiple narratives can be seen in the physical layout of the town itself: major portions of Las  Vegas adhere to traditional Spanish colonial planning while newer areas use the American “grid” system.  Founded in 1835 along the west bank of the Gallinas River, Las Vegas’ location was picked according to  the Law of the Indies, which specified that:  …a town must be in an elevated and healthy location; with means of fortification; have fertile  soil and with plenty of land for farming and pasturage; have fuel, timber, and resources; fresh  water, a native population, ease of transport, access and exit; and be open to the north wind.    Meeting all these criteria, the city layout was dictated by these laws as well, with a central plaza  surrounded by simple one‐story adobe buildings. In early years, the buildings around the plaza were  connected, and served both a residential and commercial purpose. Merchants lived and worked along  the international trade route linking the United States and Mexico. This modest adobe town continued  to flourish in a traditionally Spanish settlement pattern, with narrow streets winding away from the  Plaza to form the first (mostly) residential neighborhood, Distrito de las Escuelas.  Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 7 For nearly the next fifty years, commerce along the Santa Fe Trail would flourish in Las Vegas, eventually  becoming a million‐dollar‐per‐year business. The trail through Las Vegas followed what is now a path up  National Street to Bridge Street, around the Plaza and out of town on South Pacific Avenue, a route still  traceable today.    Everything changed in Las Vegas on July 4, 1879, with the arrival of the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe  Railroad. European influences took hold, resulting in new settlement patterns, and new styles of  architecture, new social and political institutions, and more cultural diversification. The tracks went in a  mile east of the Plaza, a decision that permanently altered the physical and social character of this small  western outpost and would eventually split the city in two.     After a few years as a shantytown, the first masonry building was erected along Railroad Avenue in  1881, the beginnings of a “New Town” in Las Vegas. This “New Town” was new in every sense of the  word compared to the original settlement of Las Vegas: streets were wider and laid out on a grid  system, buildings were of multiple stories and mostly Victorian in their style, a far cry from the simple  adobes that had previously flourished. The residences built on the new, east side of Vegas were  different as well: freestanding, single‐family homes laid out around civic conveniences such as a park or  library (now the historic districts of Library and Lincoln Park).

 All commercial conveniences were  available in the new Las Vegas: dry goods, grocery, lumber, a foundry, a hotel, and a restaurant.     This growth and change heralded by the railroad affected old Las Vegas as well. While major Santa Fe  Trail merchants remained on the Plaza, the early adobe and territorial construction was discarded in  favor of more elaborate buildings, designed to compete with the new, more sophisticated Railroad  district. A state hospital was founded in 1893, as well as Highlands University.    Bridge Street quickly became the link between these two settlements, eventually connected by electric  streetcars. But two separate identities had already been created, and the divide became official in 1884  when the Territorial Legislature split the town into East and West Las Vegas. East Las Vegas incorporated  in 1888 while West Las Vegas incorporated in 1903, and the two would not officially become one city  until 1970.    While the impact of the railroad on Las Vegas cannot be underestimated, this prosperity was to be short  lived. Beginning in 1908, the Atchison, Topeka, & Santa Fe rerouted much of its freight traffic to the  Belen cut‐off. While commercial businesses in “New Town” were already firmly established by this  point, this bypass was the death knell for the Railroad Avenue commercial district. New development  would take a turn west onto Douglas Avenue, where a third commercial district would develop through  the 1920s.     This neighborhood was the beginning of an “urban” Las Vegas, with buildings of similar style, materials,  and proportions, linked together by a modern streetscape. This new district also featured many more  civic buildings, reflecting the severely diminished trade market in Las Vegas.  Las Vegas Downtown Action Plan Page 8 The twentieth century was not kind to Las Vegas: the great depression exacted a toll, as did a severe  drought in the 1950s, the development of the trucking industries, and the closing of the AT&SF  headquarters in 1959. While other communities throughout New Mexico and the Southwest  experienced exponential growth at times, Las Vegas’ population has held steady at approximately  15,000 since 1900.     While this stagnant condition has been detrimental to the economy of Las Vegas, it has allowed for the  preservation of many historic buildings that elsewhere would have been destroyed by development.  This ”frozen in time” quality not only tells the story of Las Vegas, but has cemented its’ uniqueness in  the annals of American history.  Very few places in the western United States retain and reflect our  national history more than Las Vegas, New Mexico. This small southwestern town has many assets, but  few are more important than its cultural and social history. Unlike many other communities, Las Vegas  does not lack for an historic identity or an architectural heritage. With nine National Register Historic  Districts and over nine hundred buildings individually listed on the National Register of Historic Places,  Las Vegas has one of the highest numbers of historic buildings (per capita) in the United States. Even the  least of the historic structures in Las Vegas would be considered immeasurably valuable in most other  communities.

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