The Commercial Center District used to be one of the hot spots in Las Vegas, but some people say it’s not the same anymore. The I-Team looked into its decline and the efforts to bring it back.
Sunday service at Reflame Ministries is inside a strip mall. Lani Kahalehau and her husband have ran the church for eight years.
“It was just such a lively center,” she said.
She recalls the Commercial Center District near Sahara Avenue and Maryland Parkway in its heyday, which she says was in the late 1970s.
“You can reminisce where we had the movie stars come, the showgirls,” she said.
As the Las Vegas valley grew, places there shut down. Now, she says safety is an issue.
“I don’t feel safe at all at night if I were to come here alone,” she said.
New Orleans Square owner Ron McMenemy points to surveillance cameras and hired security to improve safety. He owns four buildings along Karen Avenue across from the Las Vegas Country Club.
On the side of the street where his properties are located, the area is known as a hot spot for prostitution.
“We’ve almost eliminated it,” he said.
He says he’s working with Metro Police and has cut loitering, which is tied to prostitution, by 80 percent.
“This building was a disaster. It was filthy. It was ill managed,” he said.
He estimates he has spent half a million dollars on improvements. Now, he has forty tenants and more are on the way.
“Five years ago, it was amazing that we all hung on to our properties and didn’t lose our properties, because we would lease to anybody,” McMenemy said. “If you could fog a mirror, we’d do a deal with you, but now we can be more selective and picky.”
Lyft is based in the area; a bike shop is set to open; Munk Studios relocated from the Downtown Arts District. Munk Studios owner Nate Murray says he moved for cheaper rent.
“I like the diversity of… the diversity of the shopping center,” he said. “I like having more than just arts. There are different avenues to where all these different people bring different consumers for me.”
There are other businesses such as a gay spa, clothing stores, and the Green Door, a sex club.
“That’s their business, and if they enjoy what they’re doing, that’s them,” Kahalehau said. “We enjoy what we’re doing, and this is us.”
“It’s kind of cool. It’s kind of fun,” McMenemy said of the business development.
Lotus of Siam opened there in 1999.
“We kind of, like, took a chance,” said Lotus of Siam owner Bill Chutima.
His wife’s love of cooking resulted in the world famous Thai restaurant, where it can be tough to get a reservation.
“It’s been great for us, so you know, what other spot would be better, right?” he said.
Chutima says they believe they can help improve the area, and they are here to stay.
“You’ve got a lot of transients. You’ve got a lot of riff-raff, but, you know, it’s mainly you have good people,” said.
He is part of a group committed to bringing the Commercial Center District back to its past glory.
“To see this place come back and be alive again, and it can. It can be alive,” he said.
The I-Team asked Metro Police about the prostitution in the area. They call it a small problem.
A few business owners say they have accepted that the loitering and the businesses can coexist.