Can downtown Henderson ever have a renaissance like the one in Las Vegas?

Your question comes on the heels of a new coffeehouse (named, simply enough, Coffee House) opening on old downtown Henderson’s main drag. It’s the latest of several java joints that have tried to give the Water Street scene a jolt (RIP, It’s a Grind, the first, and Mocha Joe, the last).

Water Street was on a path to revitalization when the downturn hit. Henderson’s city government had made efforts similar to those in downtown Las Vegas, but several projects—including mixed-use (Water Street Commons) and mid-rise (Parkline Lofts)—were abandoned. Sound familiar?

But that also suggests that if East Fremont can make a comeback, so can Water Street—with a little help. So far, Henderson has invested more than $60 million into revitalizing its downtown, including improved street-level infrastructure with wide sidewalks, benches and landscaping, plus a nice outdoor events plaza. And plenty of people visit the area for various outdoor events, including the legendary Super Run Car Show, coming in late September.

I’m a fan of old downtown Henderson; it possesses small-town friendliness and familiarity, a characteristic that could be lost amid the action in downtown Las Vegas. But a few annual anchor events and a Thursday Farmers Market isn’t enough; to grow, Henderson needs a monthly event that generates awareness, much like First Friday did for downtown Las Vegas.

Why isn’t the Spruce Goose in Las Vegas?

Because it’s in McMinnville, Ore., at the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum. That’s where the massive seaplane arrived after spending 12 years (1980-1992) next to the Queen Mary in Long Beach, Calif.

Formally designated the H-4 Hercules Flying Boat, the Spruce Goose is a one-off birchwood prototype built by Hughes Aircraft during the 1940s. Essentially a government-funded, war-fueled exercise for Howard Hughes and his plane-building obsession, the Hercules flew but once, very briefly, with Hughes at the controls, on Nov. 2, 1947.

Despite Hughes’ casino and real estate connection to Las Vegas, there’s no reason the seaplane should have come here. All of Hughes’ casinos are long gone (the last one, the Frontier, was demolished in 2007), and his plane-building facilities were in Southern California. If you want to see evidence of his legacy in Vegas, just drive Charleston Boulevard west to a place once called Husite; you’ll know it as Summerlin.

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Under the big western sky, or rafters, as the case may be, the cowboy legend lives on. The South Point recently hosted the Cowboy Mounted Shooting Association’s Scully Western U.S. Championship. As the contestants rode the dusty, uh, range taking out balloon targets with single-action .45s, spectators could imagine their way back to the days when the West was wild.

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