$50K research grant yet another sign of good occurring in Historic Westside - Las Vegas Sun News

September 6, 2021

Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear is shown in front of the “Welcome to the Historic Westside” sign, at the offramp of U.S. 95 and Martin Luther King Boulevard, Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021.

Las Vegas received good news last week when the city was awarded a $50,000 grant to conduct research on the Historic Westside neighborhood.

The goal of the research is to identify buildings and properties in the neighborhood that could be added to the National Register of Historic Places and to the city register for historic properties. This would establish protections for those properties against being demolished and replaced, and is part of a broader effort to shield the neighborhood from gentrification, maintain its character and preserve its legacy.

The city’s project builds on research initiated two years ago by the Nevada Preservation Foundation to lay a foundation for preservation. The NPF received a $50,000 grant from the National Trust for Historic Preservation to conduct background research and property surveys, which the city will incorporate into its own work. The city’s portion of the research involves completing a more intensive property survey and architectural assessment, which are requirements for a site to be listed on historic registers.

We can’t wait to see where this may lead. For instance, a number of abandoned homes in the neighborhood, which currently are owned by the city of Las Vegas or Clark County, could be developed into affordable housing if preserved and refurbished. Elsewhere, the project could make it easier for current residents to remain in the neighborhood and, through the development of affordable housing, could draw back residents who were forced to abandon the area during the Great Recession.

It’s a commendable effort for a neighborhood that holds a significant place in Las Vegas history.

The Westside became a segregated area through a combination of Jim Crow laws and societal pressures that forced Black Las Vegas residents into the neighborhood beginning in the 1930s. The Hoover Dam construction project and the legalization of casino-style gaming in 1931 combined to bring in waves of white workers and visitors from the South and elsewhere who supported segregation and did not want to co-mingle with Blacks, spurring Las Vegas businesses to bar Black customers and discriminate against them in hiring.

Then came a shameful moment in the city government’s history, when it adopted a policy to uproot Black businesses in the downtown area — the city’s central business district at the time. The city did this by denying business license renewals to Black proprietors unless they agreed to relocate to the west side, across the railroad tracks that run through the central valley.

This left Black residents walled off from the community, geographically and economically. And when Westside residents began building a bustling hub of commerce in the area despite these limitations, the city dealt them another blow by razing nearly 400 makeshift homes and shacks under the guise of addressing substandard housing.

The neighborhood would persevere, however, and gain renown for its strip of clubs where both Black and white celebrity entertainers would perform on a regular basis in the Golden Era of Las Vegas.

Given this history, and the benefits of preservation for the neighborhood today, it was encouraging to to hear that the city had received the grant funding.

A lot of good is happening in the Westside these days, thanks to neighborhood leaders and elected officials, notably City Councilman Cedric Crear. In recent months, the area has received new monument signage and an $11 million workforce center created through a partnership between neighborhood leaders and the College of Southern Nevada, to name a couple of positive developments.

To those giving the neighborhood the attention and care it deserves, we say keep up the great work.