Call me a cheerleader (some have), but Downtown’s shifting sands are a natural progression, not a sign of doom. While it may seem as if Downtown is in a lull, that’s not entirely true. Blame that narrative on a fatigue that set in after the hype wagon (and accompanying pushback) surrounding the Zappos relocation and hefty Downtown Project investments.
That big stuff was easy to see; today one has to dig a little deeper. We’re in what business types call The Round of Second Money—investors arriving after the pioneers have made it or failed. Yes, places are closing, but more new ones are opening, often in locations that housed beloved first-round joints such as Radio City Pizza and Tinoco’s/Bar + Bistro. Witness the coming Downtown location of stalwart Crown & Anchor Pub, and the complete relocation and expansion of homegrown craft-beer success story Tenaya Creek Brewery. Both speak volumes about Downtown.
Also, witness the moves of Derek Stevens, a casino owner at the Golden Gate, The D, and, recently, the storied Las Vegas Club. As we have seen with the redevelopment he’s already accomplished, Stevens is a smart visionary. As the gambling-focused area surrounding the Fremont Street Experience continues to improve and more tourists venture east of Las Vegas Boulevard (remember, the historic El Cortez sits in the Fremont East district), soon enough the two zones will meet, embrace each other and fully realize a rebirth as a cohesive nightlife zone much like Bourbon Street.
Sure, Fremont Street east of the Strip was once our city’s shopping district. But while recently shuttered Coterie was a fine clothing shop, it ideally belongs on Main Street in the Arts District, where it can generate synergy with a growing number of clothing and vintage shops, cafes and locals-friendly bars. Replacing it on Fremont with another bar might seem like overkill, but it furthers the vision former mayor Oscar Goodman had in mind when he set Fremont East into motion.
Some early-adopting Downtowners may wince at the idea of tourists comingling with urbanites, but it is already happening. This type of nightlife development is great for Downtown as a whole, permitting other districts to form distinct identities and draw unique crowds. And that is precisely what Downtown needs going forward.