With another festival closing streets Downtown — which happens all too frequently — a heartfelt plea for more open roads
I love Downtown. So much, in fact, that I have been called (not always nicely) a “Downtown cheerleader.” It makes sense, then, that in 2008 the time had come to reconcile money and mouth by relocating my business to Downtown. Revitalization was finally taking hold, and I was determined to be part of it.
Of course, to pick up a downtown by its bootstraps you need a few things: new businesses, welcoming sidewalks, a can-do energy. Part of any success hinges on enticing more people — many of whom have avoided the area for years — to visit, patronize and perhaps live there. One way you do that is with events.
In theory, that’s wonderful. But each fall, I get anxious. That’s when events pop up all over Las Vegas, and when they happen Downtown, it almost always means disruptions: street closures, parking challenges, folks staying away.
Over the years, there have been overwhelming moments when it feels as if we go months without a break in weekend events, from fun runs to festivals, parades to parties. In the beginning, we hardly knew they were coming. Sometimes we’d arrive at work Saturday (typically the busiest day) to find closed roads and minimal access. That led to frantic scrambling, frustrated guests and lost revenue. It’s as if we were being tested by the very bureaucracy that wants revitalization to succeed.
Random irritants like power outages and equipment failure are one thing. But street closures require planning and permits. Why couldn’t we get some useful advance notice? Faced with frustration, we initiated work-arounds. For instance, on parade days (the ones we knew about), we shifted operating hours to begin after the parade. Not everyone can do that.
I also complained to and met with city officials; I wasn’t the only one, to be certain. As a result, event signage and parking control has significantly improved. Event routes have been diversified instead of repeatedly disrupting the same businesses and residents. Communications have improved; we’ve gone from being blindsided by street closures to having an events calendar and the occasional informational meeting about their impact.
It’s a good start, but there’s more distance to cover. Wouldn’t it be great if Downtown businesses had time to coordinate event-themed promotions? Shouldn’t area residents be afforded information to participate in them instead of being awoken by them? Can’t we curate events, instead of allowing every odd-themed fun-run to take over the streets?
Running a business is never easy. Revitalizing a downtown isn’t, either. All the pieces must fit together in balance, a giant urban jigsaw of successful small business, civic pride, healthy residents, a vibrant street scene. That’s why I’m here. And I do love a parade — I just wish I had a better idea when they were happening.