The neighborhood surrounding the Smith Center is becoming the live/work epicenter of a new Las Vegas

Parc Haven
Photo: Wade Vandervort

Las Vegas is built for vehicles. Our airport is inside our tourist corridor. Our streets are wide, and our sidewalks narrow— in some places, dangerously so. And a freight train right-of-way runs directly through the center of town, cutting the Valley in two. Yet those train tracks are the reason Las Vegas is building a new urban center from the ground up.

Symphony Park, the upstart neighborhood that surrounds the Smith Center, is built on 61 acres of land that formerly belonged to the Union Pacific Railroad Company, which used it for a maintenance and fueling yard. The City of Las Vegas purchased the land in 2000—after a remediation process that removed the oil, metals and chemicals from the soil—and promptly began imagining new uses for the land.

Today, you can stand in a pedestrian square only a few hundred feet from those train tracks, and see those dreams taking shape. The Smith Center, Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and World Market Center are flourishing. Two new parking garages have opened in anticipation of all the good stuff that’s coming to Symphony Park, which includes a new Italian restaurant and jazz club called Vic’s; an AC by Marriott upscale business hotel, located just steps from World Market Center’s recently-opened convention hall; and an all-new resort property being conceived by Circa owner Derek Stevens. (Several other projects once slated for Symphony Park, including a fine art museum and a Charlie Palmer-designed property, are no longer in the neighborhood plans.)

Of recent note, two luxury apartment blocks, Aspen Heights Partners’ Parc Haven and Southern Land Company’s Auric, have opened in the past year. And the developers of those blocks, Aspen Heights Partners and Southern Land Company, respectively, innately understood the assignment: They’re contributing a vital component to what is functionally a second Vegas Downtown.

“I was born and raised here in Las Vegas—come from a large, three-generation family. So I’ve known about Symphony Park for quite a while,” says Patrick Brennan, development manager for Aspen Heights. “Growing up here, finishing my masters’ here at UNLV and watching Downtown continue to grow and expand, I really knew that Symphony Park was very special place and had a lot of potential.”

Alex Woodin, Director of Acquisitions for Southern Land, tells a different story with a similar conclusion. “Our owner, Tim Downey, has traveled to Las Vegas several times with his wife and really became kind of enamored with the city. And he started to notice a lack of quality housing for Downtown residents,” Woodin says. “The more Tim and other executives at Southern Land saw what the City was trying to do in the area … it just made sense that this was going to be a great location, with a ton of potential to kind of create an urban oasis.”

Brennan and Woodin’s proclamations might not make sense if you haven’t been to Symphony Park lately, but when you’re standing on City Parkway, with Park Haven and Auric towering on either side of you, the “urban oasis” comes into focus almost immediately.

Auric’s stylish Art Deco elements speak directly to the Smith Center next door. Looking at the performing arts center from Auric’s breezeway, you could swear both projects were built at the same time. And Parc Haven’s industrial-chic design and colorful balconies are in conversation both with Tim Bavington’s “Pipe Dream” sculpture and the freight trains that still roll by.

Both apartment properties boast deluxe resident amenities, from private work spaces to resident lounges to resort-quality pool areas. Parc Haven offers both bike and dog-wash rooms; Auric has a roof deck and 24-hour concierge service. But what might matter most to Valley residents is the retail and restaurant spaces at the southern end of the properties, facing the Smith. They’re ripe to become restaurants and bars that serve not only neighborhood residents, but also Myron’s and Reynolds Hall patrons looking to extend their night on the town.

Vic’s, the restaurant and jazz bar slated to occupy a 6,200 square-foot space on the bottom floor of the city parking garage structure to the southwest of Discovery Children’s Museum, will be the first such show-night destination, promises Porchlight Hospitality President and multigenerational Las Vegan Chris Lowden. Porchlight is well-primed on the entertainment front—Lowden produces the Newport Beach Jazz Party with his brother Paul, and is president of popular Town Square nightspot Stoney’s Rockin’ Country—and the company intends for Vic’s to bring some old-school Vegas dining appeal to this new neighborhood.

“Back in the day, we used to go to a place called DiMartino’s, on Maryland Parkway and Karen. What a fantastic place. We had really great memories of it. Loved their sauce,” Lowden says. “So, I called up [former owner] Mark DiMartino and I said, ‘Hey, man, I’m looking for a good chef.’ And he said, ‘Well, I’m not really doing anything right now.’ So, basically, you’ve got another old Vegas family creating the menu and overseeing the facility. We’ve already tasted some pastas and flatbreads, and they’re just phenomenal.”

Picture this: You go to the Smith Center to see a Broadway hit, afterwards adjourning to Vic’s for a late bite and a set by a local jazz combo—perhaps meeting a friend from the nearby apartments, who works in the medical offices planned for the land immediately adjacent to the Ruvo. After that, you take a leisurely walk through Symphony Park, perhaps stopping to gawk upwards at the 22-story tower planned for Auric’s next phase, visiting another one of the neighborhood’s night spots or heading directly for one of the elevated pedestrian walkways over the railroad tracks that connect Symphony Park with the rest of Downtown.

In other words, a visit to Symphony Park will feel like a proper night in a big city, one where you leave your car behind and explore. Kind of fitting that it took a former railroad yard to get Downtown Las Vegas on the right track.

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