By Parker Philpot
Photos by Parker Philpot
Special to the Las Vegas Tribune
In the spring, the city of Las Vegas announced that businesses and residents living in or commuting through the Historic Huntridge area should expect traffic delays on East Charleston from Las Vegas Blvd. to Maryland Pkwy.
Yes, that happened. Orange cones and expected traffic tie-ups were the norm for any road construction project. But something else, which was not the norm, happened. As a result, some merchants are smiling, and a local construction company is the recipient of much praise by some happy but surprised business operators. A brand new business in the area that had a timing conflict with the original completion date of late August, now has reason to celebrate.
Today, drivers and pedestrians on East Charleston between Maryland Pkwy. and Las Vegas Blvd. will see the first phases of a $700,000 beautification and safety project underway there. Project funding is provided by the city of Las Vegas and the State of Nevada.
The city’s announcement explaining that three of the median islands over several blocks will be “landscaped with trees and shrubs and one median island will feature decorative rock” was met with both good and wary responses. Good, because the improvements would help revitalize an area in need. The area, one of the oldest and well-established residential and commercial neighborhoods in Las Vegas, has had no significant revitalization in decades.
Wary were the merchants who knew that months of construction could kill their businesses. One such business was planning to open an anchor store in the Huntridge shopping center in the 1100 block of East Charleston Blvd, on August 13, which happened to be, unfortunately, during the road construction.
The center, located on the southwest corner at Maryland Pkwy. and East Charleston, is the site of a new grocery chain store, Save a Lot Food Stores, advertising its big opening this week. The merchant and neighboring businesses were highly concerned that the orange traffic cones and lane closures in that block would dampen its shopping traffic severely.
In particular, they expressed fear in recent weeks that the partially constructed and barricaded left turn lane, designed to allow westbound cars onto their large parking lot, would still be blocked by the opening date this Thursday. Another safety feature of the city’s project is the installation of a protected pedestrian walk at 11th
street with solar-powered, amber, flashing lights. That was not yet fully operable as of last weekend. Not only would the cars not have the newly constructed, protected lane to turn into the lot, but there would be no other left turns or U-turns permitted in that block.
The shopping center’s tenants reported how they stood to lose massive revenues. The renowned “dive bar,” Huntridge Tavern, is located adjacent to Save a Lot, and the bar manager, Katie Alexander, said, “The fact that half of our traffic cannot get into our center off East Charleston, has been a problem.”
She and others in the center believed they had no choice but to take their losses. Until, that is, a constructive solution surprised them.
CG & B Enterprises is the contractor. The city of Las Vegas is managing the project, and PEC Inc. is the construction manager. The improvements are within the Nevada Department of Transportation’s right-of-way.
The CG & B road construction crew and supervisor understood that the traffic problems would be costly ones for the store; therefore, in the last week or so, they made adjustments in how they progressed with the work. The new goal would be to ensure the store was accessible by shoppers in time for the opening event. As of Monday, it looked like the date for completing that section of the project might barely be possible. The crew worked hard to, at the least, be able to remove the barricades.
During the past week, the merchants wanted to do more than wave at and thank the construction work crew for their efforts. They circulated a petition of support for the company and presented it to the publisher of this newspaper requesting that he ask the city council to give some recognition to the construction company for going the extra mile to help in any way they could. The merchants brought their signed petitions to the Las Vegas Tribune and asked the publisher to take it to last Wednesday’s City Council meeting with him.
“It was my pleasure, as a business located in the same area, to help those businesses show some appreciation for workers doing their job better than they had to,” said Rolando Larraz, publisher, who spoke before the council and presented the merchants’ request.
The food store’s opening will be a bit grander, now that the work needed for all cones and barriers to be removed was competed just in time, one day before the event.
The solution was a team effort led by the construction company, who worked in a manner that expedited their progress and the completion date, along with unnamed parties in the city who reportedly made courtesy calls to the construction company to ensure they would be able to remove all the barriers in time.
The solar-powered light beacon equipment arrived just in time for the pedestrian crossing walk to be activated.
“Our thanks to the construction crew,” is what Katie and other merchants in the shopping center are saying.
By Parker Philpot