$1.2 million for Grand may be lost

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By David Giuliani

A downtown merchants group no longer has the $1.2 million in federal money that would have helped pay for improvements to Grand Avenue. But the granting agency says the local organization can reapply for the funding.

The federal Economic Development Administration has informed MainStreet Las Vegas that it couldn’t assist with the project because the downtown portion of Grand would stay at four lanes.

Last month, the City Council decided against a MainStreet proposal to narrow the street to give the area the feel of a downtown. As it stands, many visitors pass through town on Grand without realizing that the the community is home to three historic commercial districts.

In a March 30 letter, Pedro Garza, regional director of the Economic Development Administration, said the four-lane Grand project doesn’t compete favorably with other proposals in the agency’s five-state region.

But the agency said that after the state Department of Transportation completes an environmental assessment for the project, MainStreet may want to resubmit a new project proposal.

MainStreet pushed the two-lane alternative because its members wanted more area for landscaping, lampposts and benches.

But the council’s two westside members, Morris Madrid and Cruz Roybal, said they were concerned that a narrow Grand meant more traffic would end up on New Mexico Avenue, which runs by three West Las Vegas elementary schools.

After the council voted against two lanes, MainStreet officials said they would still work with the city to improve the downtown portion of Grand, a project they said could include landscaping, among other features.

Lawrence Quintana, MainStreet’s president, said this week that his group would like to approach Bob Dalton, owner of the site where the Center Block building once stood at Lincoln and Grand avenues, about acquiring his land. The group would like to have a park at that site as part of its beautification of Grand, he said.

Cindy Collins, MainStreet’s executive director, said her group had a good meeting with City Manager Timothy Dodge and Department of Transportation District Engineer Paul Gray last week.

“They advised us to resubmit a proposal,” Collins said. “MainStreet said we’ll do anything to assist the Department of Transportation and the city to get these funds.”

Councilman Andrew Feldman, who voted against keeping Grand at four lanes, said two lanes would have benefitted Las Vegas.

“Two lanes has worked well for other cities. It doesn’t really mean a delay. It would have taken 11 more seconds to get through the five-block section,” Feldman said. “It would be to promote economic development. That’s what Las Vegas needs.”

The Department of Transportation plans to hold a public hearing Thursday on the project. The agency’s public notice said the meeting is to discuss the three alternatives for Grand — two lanes, four lanes or no improvements at all.

Officials said the two-lane option will be a non-issue at the hearing because of the council’s decision.