Latest downtown park a generous gift in a small package

Latest downtown park a generous gift in a small package

Written by Alan Snel

Las VegasÕ newest park is a mere 160 square feet Ñ about as big as a Summerlin McMansion bedroom closet.

But when your downtown is thirsting for park space, you take any park you can, no matter how small.

The park is actually called a Òparklet,Ó a micropark fashioned out of a single 8-by-20-foot parking space on South Sixth Street in front of the John E. Carson Hotel commercial building near the East Carson Avenue corner.

Parklets typically cost $20,000-$60,000 to create and are found in cities such as San Francisco, Philadelphia and Portland.

And now Las Vegas. ItÕs scheduled to be finished today, with an official unveiling on Tuesday.

Downtown Project, Zappos CEO Tony HsiehÕs $350 million downtown redevelopment initiative, is footing the bill. Downtown Project also owns the John E. Carson building, which rents space to businesses such as Carson Kitchen, Bocho Downtown Sushi, O Face Doughnuts and GrassRoots Juice Bar.

ÒIt will create more traffic flow and bring more attention. WeÕre excited about it,Ó said Nichole Hester, owner of GrassRoots. ÒItÕs showing people in an urban environment that you can be outdoors.Ó

Downtown Project has dubbed the parklet, ÒThe Waiting Game,Ó because users can use the space to wait for tables at Carson Kitchen or Bocho while playing games like chess or checkers, said John Curran, of RGG, who is overseeing the parklet project for Downtown Project.

A 3-by-8-foot table will include a Las Vegas area map showing scenic outdoor spots such as Red Rock Canyon and Clark County Wetlands Park. Meanwhile, each of the tableÕs 10 stools features a species that is native to the Mojave Desert Ñ roadrunner, desert tortoise and scorpion, for example.

The parklet is a plus because there is a dearth of park space in downtown. The city of Las Vegas standard is 25 acres of parks for 10,000 residents, with the citywide average at 30 acres per 10,000 people, Curran said.

But downtown has a mere 2 acres of park land per 10,000 residents, Curran said.

ÒThis gets people to think of a parking space as a place for people and not for cars,Ó Curran said. ÒMy hope is that this is the first of many more.Ó

The city of Las Vegas and Downtown Project reached an encroachment deal for the parklet to be installed in the public right-of-way.

Downtown Project also is partnering with The Nature Conservancy and Ken McCown, former director of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas Downtown Center and now chairman of Iowa State UniversityÕs landscape architecture department.

ÒYouÕre not making a permanent enhancement, but you are introducing leisure space in a very urbanzied environment,Ó City Manager Betsy Fretwell said Friday. ÒItÕs a nice way to experiment.Ó

On Friday, volunteers installed floor planks made of recycled materials and wooden frames for planters to rim the parklet. The planters will house native vegetation such as globe mallow and brittlebush.

ÒTheyÕre hardy enough to handle the sun,Ó said Martin Swinehart, The Nature Conservancy in Nevada volunteer coordinator.

An 8-foot-tall shade structure will add some shady relief for parklet visitors.

ÒAny time you do a first with the city, itÕs always a challenge,Ó Curran said. ÒHopefully, we laid the groundwork for other people to do this.Ó

Contact reporter Alan Snel at or 702-387-5273. Find him on Twitter: @BicycleManSnel.

Latest downtown park a generous gift in a small package