I got quoted in the following press release from the Commercial Center Business Association. I realized I’ve never really covered Commercial Center, and it deserves better. I hope you’ll check it out if you’ve never visited the huge variety of stores, bars, restaurants, night clubs, shops and services.
COMMERCIAL CENTER TRANSFORMING INTO A SHOWCASE
OF THE VEGAS VALLEY’S REMARKABLE DIVERSITY.
In Three Years the Commercial Center Business Association
has Totally Revitalized of the area.
Clark County, Nevada – The Commercial Center Business Association began when a handful of concerned tenants gave up hoping that someone else would solve their neighborhood’s problems. Built in 1960 on the border between the City of Las Vegas and Clark County’s jurisdictions, Commercial Center was Las Vegas’ first major shopping center. Once the most sought after real estate in town for retail stores and offices, the new shopping center was built in close proximity to the posh Las Vegas County Club and the upper middle class postwar neighborhoods to the North.
Jack LeVine, a Realtor specializing in Mid Century Modern Homes and author of the extremely popular blog VeryVintageVegas.com, says “Commercial Center has been and still is a great place to go for shopping and dining if you live in Vintage Vegas. I go there several times a week and eat frequently at Las Palmas, Comol and Lotus of Siam. The Onyx is a wonderful little theater which is really picking up steam this year, adding momentum to the cultural renaissance of Downtown Las Vegas. I know a lot of my friends absolutely love the Commercial Center and go there often for a variety of reasons.”
“Elvis used to come in with his girlfriends and buy them jewelry” recalls Mrs. Fish who has owned and operated John Fish Jewelers since the very beginning. Other superstars shopped and got their cleaning done at Tiffany’s Cleaners which also dates back to the 1960 grand opening. They still boast the only fur vault in the city and still can handle fur, leather and special dry cleaning just as they once did for Liberace and Elvis Presley’s rhinestone studded capes and costumes.
Trouble came in the mid-eighties and nineties when suburban flight and rapid growth that characterized those decades drew the population center of Las Vegas outward in what most now agree was an insane push by speculative profiteers, irresponsible banks and boom-town builders. This short-sighted lack of planning culminated in the recent housing crisis and resulted in a decline in the once desirable downtown neighborhoods. Commercial Center was allowed to fall into disrepair in order to make it easier for high rise developers to purchase the area using eminent domain and a dubious blight study to drive down property values. The parking lot, which belongs to Clark County, was plagued by potholes, weeds, graffiti and abandoned cars. The center’s small business owners despaired finding a sympathetic ear with their elected officials who supported “redevelopment,” a euphemism for more of the same unsustainable growth in the form of high rise condos. These went broke and never materialized, a blessing considering the failure of such “build-and-they-will-come” projects which failed to positively impact the street scape in nearby downtown.
“We want to showcase the policies devised by the County that support the small business man and woman. We don’t want to be considered a blight anymore. As we’re learning though this depression, small businesses are the survivors. Times may be tough but we’re in a community that doesn’t throw in the towel and leave the County to pick up the tab and put together the pieces. We got together to solve the problems on our own.” says Paula Sadler, owner of A Harmony Nail Salon who, along with a few fellow business owners in January 2007, started the Commercial Center Business Association to do what they can to improve the area.
Today the center is in better shape. Membership dues and a grant from Nevada State Bank have paid for pothole repairs, fresh paint and street signs. The Business Association has also hired a security guard to deter panhandlers, cleaners to clean the County’s sidewalks and paint over graffiti and a local artist to paint murals on dumpsters and utility boxes. Occupancy rates are as good or better than other shopping centers which have been hit harder by the economy.
The CCBA’s next mission is to petition County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, who is Chair of the now-defunct Redevelopment Agency, to reverse the blight study. CCBA President Paula Sadler and other members will attend the Clark County Commission meeting on Tuesday July 21st to inquire about the status of the blight study and ask that the Commission move to dispel the negative implication that Commercial Center is anything but a vibrant and diverse representation of the American Dream.