When the Maryland Parkway Coalition gathered at the Boulevard Mall in May to discuss area redevelopment, the turnout was described as “stunning,” a celebrated who’s who needed to breathe life back into the densely developed and much-traveled corridor.
For years, Maryland Parkway has been in need of a visual makeover, better transit options, pedestrian-friendly walkways and an infusion of new life. The Midtown UNLV project, aiming to turn the campus area into a thriving cultural hub, has been stalled due to the recession, and in recent years, all the attention seemed directed at Downtown.
But Maryland Parkway hasn't been forgotten. It's too valuable. It links together the airport, Downtown, UNLV, small businesses and historic neighborhoods.
And so in September, when the Regional Transportation Commission launched a study of Maryland Parkway, complete with public workshops, ears collectively perked. Then in May, more than 70 community members turned out for the Coalition meeting at Boulevard Mall, where they talked vision, transportation opportunities, business and public art. Among the residents, business owners and community leaders in attendance were County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani (who lives four blocks away from the mall) and representatives from McCarran, the RTC, the Brookings Institution, Friends of Winchester and the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, which is expanding and developing its Las Vegas Global Business District.
“A lot of people have direct interest in the corridor, and there are those who have nostalgia for the area,” says Ric Jimenez, chair of the Maryland Parkway Coalition and former general manager of the Boulevard Mall. “People remember what Maryland Parkway used to be and know what Maryland Parkway can be.”
Once a bustling area on the outskirts after it stole shoppers from Downtown when the mall opened, the area declined as suburban neighborhoods expanded outward. It needs to be revived, community members say. On some blocks, the area looks rundown and neglected. Businesses have closed, leaving some buildings vacant.
But Michael Saltman, who conceived the Midtown UNLV project along with former UNLV president Carol Harter, says while the recession stalled efforts, planning for Midtown never stopped. His real estate development company, The Vista Group, owns property in the area, including the Promenade across from UNLV, which he says will soon be under renovation.
Saltman says the $175 million student housing project at Maryland Parkway and Cottage Grove Avenue—titled Midtown Park—is a critical sign of new energy in the area. (American Nevada Company is involved with Midtown Park and is a sister company of the Greenspun Media Group.)The Nevada Board of Regents approved the project in July.
“That would be a major component for the concept of the Maryland Parkway Coalition and a game-changer for UNLV,” Saltman says. “It will bring more students wanting to live on campus. ... One good project begets another.”
RTC officials say its transit study, known officially as the Maryland Parkway Alternatives Analysis, will wrap up this fall and will provide recommendations (based on public and stakeholder workshops) to the RTC’s board of commissioners. The information would then be presented to Federal Transit Administration to continue project development. Funding could come from the FTA's New Starts Program
Additionally, Southern Nevada Strong, a collaborative regional planning effort federally funded by a $3.5 million grant, identified the Maryland Parkway corridor as an “opportunity site.”
Designed to rehabilitate neighborhoods, Southern Nevada Strong has $300,000 to conduct studies on three different sites in Southern Nevada. The Maryland Parkway corridor is among 12 sites, whittled down from 40, vying for one of the $100,000 studies.
According to the RTC, there are 55,000 residents living in the Maryland corridor and between 17,000 and 36,000 vehicles traveling on Maryland between Russell and Flamingo roads each day. More than 9,000 riders use mass transit on Maryland, and 46 percent of households in the corridor between Charleston and Russell are low-income.
Lisa Corrado, project manager for Southern Nevada Strong, says an online community survey has Maryland among the top three sites and there has been a lot of market interest in the area. Several factors, she says, including high employment, economic diversity and transportation, create a good fit for applying redevelopment efforts. Adding to those advantages are the big landmarks—UNLV, Sunrise Hospital, McCarran and Downtown.
Giunchigliani, a big proponent of revitalization in the area (and of light rail on Maryland Parkway), says that to move forward there needs to be an integrated, well-planned, properly-zoned effort.
“We need to identify what retail is missing from the corridor, how to bring back small mom-and-pop businesses, look at being pedestrian-friendly and what are the housing needs,” she said, adding that streetscapes and public art are also important. “We can be an example of how you can revitalize an area without running out the people who live there. We don’t want to push people out. There are still housing needs that need to be addressed.”
What does the future hold for Maryland Parkway? Saltman, enthusiastic about its revitalization, says, “It’s way beyond Midtown now.”