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National recognition - Bridge Street named among top 10 in U.S.

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By Mercy Lopez

We’ve always known that Bridge Street is a gem, and now a national organization is listing it among the top 10 Great Streets in the nation.

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The American Planning Association bestowed that honor on Las Vegas late last week, putting it in company with streets like the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia and Kalakaua Avenue in Honolulu, which is near Waikiki Beach.

A celebration is planned for noon Saturday at the newly completed Breezeway on Bridge Street. The event is free and open to the public.

“We are so honored that Bridge Street is being recognized by the APA,” Mayor Alfonso E. Ortiz, Jr., said. “Bridge Street and the Plaza are the heart of downtown Las Vegas and the cornerstone of economic development in our community.”

A news release from the American Planning Association states that Bridge Street was selected based on several factors, including its connections to the 16th Century Spanish planning principles, the restored architecture, scenic qualities and the commitment of local businesses, officials and residents to protect its historical character.

“Few streets in the country authentically capture the span of Western U.S. history and growth during the 19th Century as well as Bridge Street,” said APA Chief Executive Officer Paul Farmer.

The iconic bridge on Bridge Street connects the east and west sides of town near Plaza Park.

Bridge Street and nearby Plaza Park are the site for two of the Las Vegas’ signature events, the annual Fourth of July Fiestas and the Rough Rider Motorcycle Rally,  held in late July. Hundreds of motorcycles park on Bridge Street during the rally.

The street is also home to various businesses that have stood the test of time.

You can get anything from a bite to eat and a tattoo to a new wardrobe and cell phone on Bridge Street.  

The buildings along that street are steeped in history.

One of the city’s first fire stations was housed there. The E. Romero Hose and Fire Co. building was used as a fire station in the late 1800s and early 1900s. Inside Tito’s Gallery is an old jail cell that housed many a troublemaker.

“It is a good deal for the street as it brings attention to what’s going on here all the time,” said Tito Chavez, who, along with his wife, Mary, owns Tito’s Gallery.

Chavez said the entire Mainstreet Corridor needs that type of designation from the railroad to the Plaza.

“This recognition is a reminder of how precious and unique Bridge Street and the independent businesses are that make these 19th century buildings live in 2013,” said Cindy Collins, the executive director of MainStreet de Las Vegas.

Ortiz applauded the Bridge Street and Plaza merchants for their continued dedication to keeping the area alive despite the economic.

Bridge Street combines a mix of restored architecture, including Greek Revival, Queen Anne, Mission Revival, Art Deco, Neoclassical and Italianate. The influence of the Spanish settlers and the influence of the building boom after the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad arrived in town in 1879 is visible in the buildings.

“We have Las Vegas elected officials, business owners and residents to thank for everything they’ve down to not only restore the historic architecture along the street, but also to ensure Bridge Street continues to be a vibrant part of the local community,” Farmer said.

APA didn’t rank the top 10 streets on its list. Other streets on the list include: Broadway, Jim Thorpe, Pa.; North and South Walnut Street, Milford, Del.; Palafox Street, Pensacola, Fla.; C Street, Virginia City, Nev.; Market Street, Corning, N.Y.; The Strand, Galveston, Texas; and West Beverley Street, Staunton, Va.

The Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia is surrounded by museums and hotels and is well known from the original Rocky movie. In the movie, Rocky runs up the steps of the Philadelphia Museum Of Art and raises his arms in triumph. That museum is off of the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.

Besides selecting the nation’s 10 Great Streets, it also chose the nation’s 10 Great Neighborhoods and 10 Great Public Spaces.