I don’t know if it makes sense, but it’s happening. If you head out to Fremont East after dark, you’ll have to snake your way through hordes of “hipsters” in order to taste Thai food or handcrafted cocktails, or to groove to local bands or bumping DJs.
The creative class isn’t just “coming” to Las Vegas; it has always been here. Imagine all the creatives required to make Strip entertainment hum every night for the past 70 years! Until recently, those urbane, artsy types played Vegas life mostly on the down-low, a sideshow to the mainstream madness of the Strip: One of my favorite Vegas places in the 1990s was Jazzed Café on East Tropicana: 800 square feet of wine and risotto packed from midnight to 5 a.m. with show people, musicians and creatives of all types.
Is the downtown “renaissance” just another doomed rebranding effort, like “Family Vegas”?
Today’s changes downtown cannot be compared with our lukewarm attempts at pitching a family-friendly Strip in the 1990s. The latter was an effort to recast the Las Vegas that exists primarily for tourists; the former reclaims our urban center as a place for residents to live, work and play.
Furthermore, the so-called “Disneyfication” of Las Vegas that many think ended 10 years ago actually continues unabated; the family-friendly experiments may have failed, but theming is alive and well. The Strip continues to evolve ever more as a theme park of accepted American excess (ChefLand! BoozeLand! Shoes & Handbag Land!) and less as a desert outpost of seedy sin.
The Neonopolis movie theater failed, and now the space will be a nightclub. With downtown becoming more popular, will we end up sorry we don’t have a nice multiplex?
Ten years ago, when I was a Neonopolis theater regular, I would have said yes. But the future of multiplexes seems troubled as more people watch movies at home. What I think downtown will really miss is a revival/cult/art theater. I won’t dare mention the Huntridge …
When so many of us have suburban houses underwater, can we really afford to focus on spiffing up downtown?
Can we really afford not to?