Our Corner: lessons from Henderson

Bob the security guard didn’t want me taking pictures in the new Henderson City Hall.

While I was on my trip to Las Vegas I stopped in Henderson and wandered around Water Street, I mean the Historic Water Street District, to check out all the new stuff that’s been built since I moved away more than six years ago.

I spent a year covering the city of Henderson, which is a suburb of Las Vegas about seven miles southeast of Sin City, for a weekly paper. Many long hours were spent at that City Hall sitting through City Council and Planning Commission meetings among other things. I wrote about a number of capital construction projects, including the expansion of City Hall where Bob the security guard asked me to not take pictures, as well as the plans to redevelop Water Street to pull it back from death’s door step.

Now, I was quite polite with Bob the security guard, as I said, “Hi, I’m Kris Hill. I’m just checking out the new City Hall since I used to write about it all the time when I worked for the Henderson Home News. But, I haven’t seen it since it was complete.”

By that point I had already taken a few photos inside but I think an employee mentioned my presence and forced Bob the security guard out from behind his desk. I didn’t really want to take a whole lot of photos of the inside of a building so I didn’t really have a problem complying with his request even if I did think it was a bit ridiculous.

So I went back outside. I spent about an hour or so walking up and down Water Street. I took a couple dozen photos while wandering around, mostly on the street, since that was what I primarily interested in seeing.

When Henderson city officials were coming up with a plan for re-developing Water Street they wanted it to maintain the 1950s era feel some of the original buildings have that remain there while making it a more vibrant place so it could be a destination for visitors without sacrificing the city’s heritage.

While I was walking around it was in the upper 60s, a beautiful day, around 10 a.m. and there was a Farmer’s Market underway in front of City Hall. I also noticed signs for other events that would take place along Water Street. It got me excited about the Maple Valley Farmer’s Market coming June 20.

There are plenty of new buildings that have that ‘50s retro feel that in a way look like they’ve always been there.

It really felt like it was totally new and different while seeming completely familiar. I have to say I think Henderson got what it wanted.

Having a vision and seeing it through is challenging. A local city planner told me when you’re trying to come up with that Main Street gathering place that both Covington and Maple Valley want you have to get total buy in from the city council.

That’s one thing I think Henderson had more than six years ago. The City Council there was also the Redevelopment Board which developed the vision and guided it along as Water Street transformed.

The trick for both Covington and Maple Valley is that unlike Henderson, they have to build their Main Street from scratch, and that’s going to be a challenge given the economy as well as building consensus which will be critical for both cities to guide development.

Meanwhile, residents will need to be patient, but unafraid to offer their opinions to their respective city officials both elected and appointed while each town develops a vision for Main Street and guides it to fruition.

It’s a time consuming process but I have faith that in six years both cities will have a Main Street that offers a community gathering place that fits a joint vision created in partnership with the community.

Hopefully when that happens I won’t have any more run-ins with security guards but I promise I will be polite.