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July 29, 2005

ARCHIVE: World Market Center


World Market Center

World Market Center

Thursday we heard how the taxpayer subsidized World Market Center is shaping up as a financial boon for downtown Las Vegas. But how does it fit in with the downtown community and visions of redevelopment? KNPR's Ky Plaskon reports.

PLASKON: Mayor Oscar Goodman has always pitched downtown redevelopment on a 61-acre parcel it owns as creating a special place for Las Vegans.

GOODMAN: An urban village with wonderful pedestrian streets with retail commercial and most importantly residential because we will never be a real downtown unless we have people living there we are going to have high rises, we are going to have brownstones, it is going to be a very cool place to live."

PLASKON: At the opening of the World Market Center this week, Goodman said that building is part of the long hoped-for re-development.

GOODMAN: We have to think in terms of a 117-acre development because you have to think in terms of a symbiotic relationship. We are talking about a hotel being built on the 61 acres.

PLASKON: He promoted the World Market Center and a hotel as something different for Las Vegas.

GOODMAN: This diversifies our economy overnight. It is like waving a wand and saying 50-thousand people come here for reasons other than what you usually come here for.

PLASKON: But Furniture Mart, which holds a convention only twice a year, is drawing some of the same transient crowd Las Vegas is accustomed to like Pat and . . Ried.

RIED: We have a condo here . . . Everyone should have a condo in Las Vegas ha ha ha.

PLASKON: Officials with the Related Companies described this cornerstone of downtown redevelopment as a box without windows. That may be fine for infrequent visitors like the Rieds, but for Las Vegans its not friendly, even alienating.

GOODMAN: You know Ky, you are always such a negative guy. If I had a furniture business here and I was rich like I am okay, I would buy myself a beautiful condo so I could be close to my outlet. That is the difference between you and me. I'm rich, you are not.

FIELDEN: Is the building sided to minimize exposure to afternoon sun. Ha ha ha, you got an answer there?"

PLASKON: Dr. Robert Fieden has developed 33 criteria to determine if buildings in Las Vegas are good for the people who live here. He says the World Market Center is not practical for many reasons. Some of them obvious.

SOUND: Walking outside

PLASKON: Fielden walks outside of the World Market Center and finds the pedestrian friendly atmosphere Goodman proposed is more than lacking.

FIELDEN: You are not going to be attracted to this when you are living out here in the sun and facing the sun like we are here at 6:30 in the night. You have perspiration pouring off your forehead and we have been out here how long. 3 Minutes?"

PLASKON: He says it looks nice from far away, but up close it is an ominous inefficient unfriendly building. It fails most of Fielden's 33 criteria for good design in the desert. Its not only out of sync with its surroundings but industrial-size docking bays waste valuable road frontage and it doesn't not offer shade outside or natural light inside. There is plenty of common-knowledge on how to build practically in the desert and not make these mistakes he says.

FIELDEN: It hasn't gone anywhere because no one has placed any demands on anyone to think about it or do anything about it.

The developer plans to open 6 more buildings like this over the next 7 years. Throughout the year they will be mostly vacant except for conventions and they won't serve the general public. The Mayor and redevelopment agency say they are working to build other facilities on the other half of the site that will draw Las Vegans to downtown. The Smith performing arts center is one. The mayor has been pushing for a stadium hotel and new city offices all of which are still on the drawing board.

Ky Plaskon, News 88-9 KNPR

Related stories

The opening of the World Market Center represents the first taxpayer-subsidized redevelopment of downtown Las Vegas through tax increment financing. In the first of two reports, KNPR's Ky Plaskon looks at the public's return on investment.

High Point, North Carolina, has long been regarded as the 'furniture capital of the world.' Now some think the new Las Vegas center could pose a threat. The view from North Carolina.

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