Preserve Nevada considers alternatives to demolishing Downtown buildings

Preserve Nevada will submit a report to the county on how to save the Bridger Building, which opened in 1966.

Nonprofit group Preserve Nevada is submitting a report to the county on how to rescue the Bridger Building, a delicious piece of vintage candy sitting empty Downtown and abhorred by many.

Never mind the fact that the county, which owns the 1966 robin’s egg-blue office building, doesn’t want to save the structure. It’s been slated for demolition for years. Plans to raze it will go forward once resources are available, say county representatives. The report is simply a suggestion born from a recent workshop on sustainable rehabilitation and adaptive reuse of the Bridger building—held not for the sake of the building itself, but as an effort to bring professional discourse on rehabbing.

The workshop preceded a daylong symposium presented by the city of Las Vegas, the National Trust and UNLV’s Urban Sustainability Initiative dedicated to sustainable historic preservation—a crazy notion in a region known best for “let’s blow it up.”

But with a new interest in old Downtown, adaptive reuse might not be so nuts. The 50 people who turned out for the Bridger workshop considered various options to rehab the building to LEED standards, that would be financially feasible for the county. According to Preserve Nevada board member Courtney Mooney, it would cost less than $7 million to rehab the building, five times less than a demolition and rebuild. That, of course, would need to be verified, which to preservationists would be a worthy endeavor.

“Preservation is so altruistic. If it doesn’t pencil out financially, it’s hard to convince people to consider it,” Mooney says.

Preserve Nevada looked to the Carson building at 302 E. Carson as an example. Shangri-la Construction renovated the building, completing the retrofit in 2010 and earning it LEED certification. The Bridger workshop (formally titled a charrette) was held on the 10th floor of the Carson building. It drew preservationists, architects from local firms, representatives from Zappos, Downtown Project and the National Trust and UNLV students.

“The Bridger building has always been a favorite with preservationists," Mooney says. "It’s an understated Modern building that’s overlooked.”

Right now, the Bridger is costing the county money through required upkeep—insurance, security, sprinklers, graffiti removal. “We would have demolished it years ago if we’d had the money,” says county spokesman Erik Pappa.

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