Ask a Native

Why can’t we get a University District going?

We did, in the 1990s. Maryland Parkway was then a bustling boulevard of campus culture from Flamingo to Tropicana. It housed two music stores (Tower, Benway Bop), several bars with live music (Sports Pub, Stake Out, Favorites), inexpensive ethnic eats, comic book shops, vintage clothing stores, pizza joints, and two (!) independent coffeehouses—Cafe Copioh and Cafe Espresso Roma—the latter of which is said to have helped birth the Killers. In the mid-2000s, UNLV’s then-President Carol Harter and developer Michael Saltman suggested the ambitious Midtown UNLV, a master-planned re-imagining of UNLV’s stretch of Maryland Parkway. Today, UNLV Now envisions an on-campus football stadium with high-energy retail and restaurants around it, a plan that might free up Midtown to be a more organic alternative. Possible challenge? The Smith Center for the Performing Arts. UNLV has long been Las Vegas’ place to experience traditional culture, and those patrons are a key component to reshaping any artsy street scene along Maryland Parkway. If that foot traffic mostly migrates downtown, it could pose significant challenges to reigniting the university creative scene of the 1990s.

Growing up in Vegas in the 1970s, I remember an “air raid”-type siren blaring every day while I was out riding my bike. What was that?

Ah, the good old days: The fear of nuclear annihilation and the joy of $1.99 Prime Rib at the El Cortez! With the Nevada Test Site so close, Las Vegas played a primary part in nuclear politics, and the 25 Thunderbolt Sirens perched around our city reminded us of that every Saturday (yes, only Saturdays) with a test at high noon. Activated by a radio-controlled signal originating from the fire department, the test lasted 60 seconds and activated all citywide sirens simultaneously. Twenty-three 125dB supercharger-driven screamers were installed on public buildings in the late 1960s, two more in 1977. “My” siren was atop Fire Station No. 3, then on Bonanza Road just east of Rancho Drive. Testing was reduced to monthly in the early 1990s before ending in the late ’90s, when information technology relegated the sirens to relic status. But you Cold War kids can reminisce by listening to the “Thunderbolt Siren” entry in Wikipedia. Close your eyes, crank it up; you’ll be back on your Mongoose BMX in no time.

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