The loaded past and present of the F Street closure

F Street will soon be united with Symphony Park.
Photo: Leila Navidi

Development in a Western boomtown means crazy things might happen now and then: We might terrace mountains, build rapaciously in an unsustainable environment, gate our neighborhoods and implode anything older than a couple of decades. Then there are other decisions, such as the walling off of a historic black neighborhood from the promise of Downtown redevelopment, using a freeway-widening project as the reason and backing it up with concerns over traffic flow on a residential street because multimillion dollar projects on the other side of the freeway are repopulating the area.

Having a freeway splice a town in half is not so unusual. Nor are concerns of traffic flying through residential zones. It happens. Some neighborhoods want their privacy (Anthem, for example), but West Las Vegas comes with a loaded history that makes the issue much more charged. The city council’s decision to use $8.5 million in bonds toward re-opening F Street to reconnect it (literally under the interstate) with Downtown’s Symphony Park has enlivened the complex conversation.

Residents charge that blocking off F Street, a decision made in 2006, was racially motivated. According to a 2009 article in the Review-Journal, the city proposed closing F Street to placate complaints from area residents in regard to “cut through” traffic on the residential street. But residents argued they weren’t well notified and did not realize the closure was going to be permanent. There were cries of segregation from an area that began because of segregation. And by its very definition, segregation—to be set apart—is an accurate description of what happened here. Why it happened, however, is much more complicated.

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Kristen Peterson

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