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Re-opening connections and building bridges

Ben Sprague | 08 Jun 2015 | Comments

Sometimes a street becomes more than just a street—signifying connection, access, and inclusion. Moreover, streets can become celebrated components of our city landscapes and treasured assets of our communities.

When F Street was closed in 2008—underneath the newly widened I-15—the historic Westside was separated from downtown Las Vegas and the neighborhood began to rally. Determined community members held meetings, met with government officials, talked to the media, marched the Las Vegas Strip in protest, and even organized an official group called the F Street Coalition.

F-Street project
Architectural elements were designed to resemble the architecture of the historic Moulin Rouge Hotel-Casino.

When the State Legislature agreed that the street should be reopened, it was clear that a new approach was needed. How could agencies rebuild community trust and engage a wide variety of impassioned stakeholders to work collaboratively towards a common goal?

We began working with the City of Las Vegas and the Nevada Department of Transportation to develop a carefully crafted and transparent campaign that would engage the community’s passionate and dedicated stakeholders to ensure the needs of the community were met and represent its unique culture and history. Through a series of design workshops that included breakout teams, focus groups, online engagement, and live polling and surveys, a new partnership was developed with neighborhood associations, business owners, religious organizations, and local chambers of commerce.

Focused on our new shared vision, the participants, engineers, architects, and facilitators guided the engineering and design process by providing input on everything from bridge type to aesthetics, and ultimately determined the components that helped create a new central element of their walkable and connected community.

F-Street
The underpass includes a series of 12 interpretive murals depicting scenes of historic significance to the neighborhood.

The community celebrated the opening of F Street, which now includes two lanes of traffic, new sidewalks, bike lane, lighting, and landscaping. The underpass is also decorated with a series of 12 interpretive murals depicting scenes of historic significance to the neighborhood, and two decorative 44-foot tall towers resembling the architecture of the historic Moulin Rouge Hotel-Casino—the first integrated resort in Las Vegas. Most notably, the opening provides an important link between downtown Las Vegas and this historic West Las Vegas community.

The F Street re-opening project reinforces that positive, proactive interaction with the community is crucial to the success of any public works project. Through the commitment, flexibility, and creativity of all stakeholders—otherwise contentious undertakings can be transformed into projects that unite us in celebrating local history and building community pride.

Involving the community early in the decision-making process not only builds trust and support, but helps to establish consensus on projects that truly reflect community needs.

For further background, you might want to check out this short video (here) with interviews from across the community that was affected by the F Street project.

The video is reproduced here with kind permission from Las Vegas Review Journal.