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As We Emerge From COVID-19, What Developments Will Work Here?

Rendering of a renovated Huntridge Theater
(Graphic: Business Wire)

Rendering of a renovated Huntridge Theater

If vaccinations stay ahead of infections, it looks like Las Vegas will emerge soon from the pandemic-borne recession.

Already some good signs: the statewide unemployment rate is down to about 8 percent from around 30 percent last year. The $2 billion dollar Resorts World will open soon. An Amtrak link between Los Angeles to Las Vegas could be part of President Joe Biden’s infrastructure plan.



The Huntridge Theater:

J. Dapper, a developer who specializes in downtown development, just bought the old Huntridge Theater for $4 million. He doesn't know exactly what will go into the old space. He is currently talking with potential tenant partners about turning it into a performing arts space. He is also in discussions with potential food and beverage options.

"We're looking to do something specific and special at the venue," he said, "It's not just filling up the space with something that may work. It's filling up the space with something that works, that people will love and add onto the legacy."

Dapper said, personally, he would like to see the old theater turned back into a music or performing arts venue, but he's not a music promoter. He's a developer and whoever he ends up partnering with, ultimately, will make the decision.

"We are already talking to some groups that definitely know what they're doing. They have interest. They run a lot of venues here in Las Vegas. We'll say they're big companies that have a lot of wherewithal," he said, "We think that we're talking to some of the right people, and we've already had some people from out of town that are coming and talking to us that are surprised, frankly, that we're getting calls from other places and people that interested in the theater."

The theater has languished in disrepair for years. Attempts have been made in the past to revive it, with little success. Dapper has lived in Las Vegas his whole life. He told KNPR's State of Nevada there are several reasons why right now is a perfect time for the redevelopment of the Huntridge.

"The neighborhood is changing in a really good way," he said, "You're seeing entrepreneurs open lots of different types of businesses that we never saw in downtown before, and it's turning out that they're successful. 

He also said there is a tremendous amount of investment that is happening in the nearby Arts District and East Fremont. Dapper said that investment is fueling real momentum downtown. He said there is a surge of people looking for something they can't get on the Strip or in the suburbs, but they can access in the city's urban core.

Entertainment in Las Vegas:

Amanda Belarmino is a professor at the William F. Harrah College of Hospitality at UNLV. She said Las Vegas differs from other cities in the southwest in entertainment because of its ability to bring in more big entertainers all year round.

"You get so much more big-name entertainment here than you get other places," she said, "We are an entertainment destination. I think what we've seen change so much over the last 10 years is the advent of the Smith Center. The addition of that to the community and the growth within the community."

Belarmino said entertainment venues - big and small - are getting layers of support in Las Vegas. There are locals that attend big shows on the Strip and tourists who seek out smaller venues.

In addition, the city's population growth is helping support the performing arts and entertainment. 

Obviously, the pandemic has shuttered most entertainment venues, including one of the most lucrative industries in recent years: nightclubs. Before the pandemic, many large nightclubs were starting to see a bit of a decline in attendance.

"I think that perhaps that decline in nightclubs may actually be helped by the pandemic that we may see an increase in people's attendance, but I think it still needs to be strategic," she said.  

Belarmino believes there is pent-up demand for nightclubs, especially for young travelers, while older travelers will be attracted to smaller venues like lounges.

"I think we're going to see a more fragmented market and desire for entertainment than we saw before," she said, "I think there will be people that want to go to the large events, but I think there will be people that want to go to smaller more intimate venues more so than before and I think that this is a great opportunity to bring back lounge-style entertainment. I think right now there is a desire for any type of live entertainment that would feel safe." 


Dapper: "I was a huge supporter of light rail, but now with the Boring Company coming into town I believe that that is probably a better more realistic solution. 

The amount of money that it was going to take to get light rail through [the Maryland Parkway] corridor was tremendous, whereas what the Boring Company is proposing seems a lot more realistic to me." 

Themed Resorts:

Belarmino: "I think the themed properties that we have are considered icons of the city. I think the Venetian, the Luxor, all of those things are just an amazing part of our skyline.

I think that the reason we haven't been seeing that as much is: the idea to do something different, and I think yet another themed property may not seem as a way to differentiate oneself."


J. Dapper, principal, Dapper Cos.;   Amanda Belarmino, professor, William F. Harrah College of Hospitality 

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.