The historic African-American neighborhood in Las Vegas known as the Westside sits at a crossroads — literally and figuratively.
It is physically located near downtown Las Vegas and Symphony Park and road projects are improving access to the area.
The future of the neighborhood north of Bonanza Road is also the subject of debate and proposals on addressing the challenges left by years of economic isolation.
How best to move forward has been an issue in today’s Las Vegas City Council special election in Ward 5, which includes the Westside.
Voters are electing a replacement for Councilman Ricki Barlow, who quit and pleaded guilty in a kickback scandal. He had made Westside revitalization a priority.
"Even though it is well-diversified today, it is still considered the historicic African-American community because at one time that's the only place African-Americans could live," said UNLV Libraries oral historian Claytee White.
The Westside became Nevada’s largest black neighborhood starting in the 1920s. It was a vibrant area filled with homes, businesses, and churches during the era of segregation.
The lifting of racial barriers prompted an exodus of many residents and businesses. The legacy is empty storefronts and other signs of neglect.
City and community leaders have identified the area for new investment, including the recent renovation of the Historic Westside School. The nearly century-old campus today houses an urban-focused public radio station, nonprofits and social services.
The Westisde is also the topic of the Hundred Plan, an effort embraced by the city and produced by UNLV’s School of Architecture’s Downtown Design Center. It envisions a revitalized, tree-lined urban environment that is friendlier to pedestrians and bicyclists.
"I wanted this to be communuity-based. I didn't want a group coming in and dictating to a neighborhood, 'here's our vision for you,'" said Steve Clarke, head of the Downtown Design Center. "The vision had to come from the communty; that was first and foremost the key aspect of this."
Claytee White, oral historian; John Edmond, lifelong Westside resident; Steve Clarke, UNLV's Downtown Design Center; John Tippins, real estate investor
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