Emergency Arts: an inspiration to reuse old Vegas establishments

The afterlife: The former JCPenney and Fremont Medical Building now draws artists, hipsters and fans of Downtown.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Awards for Historic Preservation and Adaptive Reuse in Las Vegas aren’t exactly spilling all over the place, so the category alone is enough to make the preservationist heart thump wildly. That Emergency Arts won the 2010 Mayor’s Urban Design Awards is no surprise. They deserve it. The operators, Jennifer and Michael Cornthwaite, have shown how it’s done and how it can be done (especially for those who, unlike Holsum Design Center and some area galleries, have the adequate restrooms to help avoid the extensive and outdated city permit processing and code enforcement that derails and curtails various efforts). Emergency Arts’ 1951 building, originally JCPenney and then the Fremont Medical Building, stands at Sixth and Fremont, gushing with community love. With La Concha safe at the Neon Museum, the Fifth Street School and the old Holsum bread factory in reuse and the old Post Office readying for the Mob Museum, we can dream of other reuse possibilities.

Reed Whipple Cultural Center: How about a cultural center with a cool gallery space, dance rooms, classrooms, clay working studio and a theater? Or an art house movie theater with a gallery and restaurant? The city of Las Vegas is seeking proposals for lease, purchase or redevelopment of this gem of a building on Las Vegas Boulevard North that served as the city’s first community/cultural center and closed last year.

601 E. Fremont St.: We’d suggest it house the Las Vegas Museum of Contemporary Art. But that ship already sailed. In the meantime, we’re waiting for the space’s restaurant, retail and condos plans to move forward.

Williams Mattress Co.: We’d love to see this building on First and Coolidge in the Arts District turned into an old-fashioned bakery. Seriously.

Huntridge Theatre: We can dream.

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