Back in December 2011, Mayor Carolyn Goodman gave a speech to an enthusiastic crowd and snipped the ceremonial ribbon at the site of the future Las Vegas Gateway Center, under the gaze of the haloed Blue Angel statue standing atop the rundown weekly motel at Eastern and Fremont.
It was only the year prior that the Las Vegas City Council had approved developers’ plans for a 91,000-square-foot retail community that would replace the blight of the Blue Angel and other nearby rentals, infusing new energy into the busy but neglected Downtown intersection.
But two and a half years after the project’s approval, the Blue Angel, whose tenants were vacated for the redevelopment, remains closed and fenced in. The Par-A-Dice motel across the street was razed, but there’s no construction equipment in sight. Nothing else seems to be happening.
Project developer Arnold Stalk says his group hasn’t found the right tenants to inhabit the someday commercial properties. New investors have been brought to the table, but while money (public and private) has been poured into other Downtown redevelopment efforts, the area occasionally referred to as four corners has yet to draw the same interest.
So, what next? The city says the project’s entitlement rights expired in May 2011, but that the city council approved an extension in June. Stalk has until May 2014 to secure building permits for the project.
It’s not as if Stalk hasn’t been busy. The developer and noted advocate for the disadvantaged, who was the first in Las Vegas to incorporate shipping containers into buildings—primarily emergency homes reportedly sent to Haiti following its earthquake—also founded the Veterans Village, which opened this year to provide housing and services for veterans in a rehabbed Econo Lodge. He says he’s also working to help find a new home for the Rape Crisis Center. His volunteer efforts and projects aren’t nearly as glamorous as other Downtown developments (which he supports), but Stalk says, “I see people who are struggling, who just can’t afford an overpriced cocktail.”
Plans for the Gateway Center project, he says, remain intact, and that the demographics are “very strong” for Hispanic-related retail to serve the area. Also intact are plans to preserve the area’s iconic vintage signs and motifs, including the revered Blue Angel, designed by Betty Willis and romanticized by longtime locals as a protector of the history-rich area.