LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– Known as Las Vegas’ oldest shopping center, the Historic Commercial Center may soon see more restaurants, art exhibits, and alcohol to combat the deteriorating quality of the area.

The district, located on East Sahara and Maryland Parkway, was originally constructed in the 1960s, according to Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom. Ever since, however, people living near it have said it’s changed for the worse.

“It was a scary place,” Nick Spirtos said, who has lived across the street from the center for 20 years. “A lot of vagrancies, a lot of vagrants, and then just empty and desolate, that scares people. [It] keeps you away.”

The few businesses remaining feel like it’s them, and an empty parking lot. Vickie’s Diner moved to the center in 2021, where Manager Michael Hawkins said nefarious activity was witnessed almost daily outside the restaurant.

“You never know what you’re going to see when you walk through the parking lot,” Hawkins said outside the diner Thursday morning. “When we first opened up, there was a lot of, uh, call girls, and the like.”

Other criminal activities have surrounded the center for years, including a 2021 mass shooting at an unlicensed hookah lounge that injured 12 people and killed one. An assessment of Las Vegas Metropolitan Department data showed enforcement responded to this block 42 times within the past year.

Commissioner Segerblom said much of this deterioration came with shoppers’ focus turning to newer construction nearby over the past 60 years.

“The truth is, new areas become old areas and then we just keep building and building, and then the old areas become slums,” Segerblom said inside his Downtown office Thursday morning.

But that’s not the perception he and other county commissioners have planned for this center’s future.

Segerblom detailed the public draw to the district’s stores, nightlife, and gay culture in the previous century that’s “begging” to return in this one.

“Before modern times when you couldn’t be openly gay, there were bars, there and places where gays would go,” Segerblom said. “Historically, it was the place everyone went to shop.”

Preserving that history, he said, is the goal. Renaming the portion of Karen Avenue that runs south of the center to “Liberace Avenue,” paired with a Liberace Museum and increased art galleries and exhibits, are two ideas.

Additionally, bringing in more bars, more restaurants, and even an underground Tesla tunnel to the strip, are also on the table, he said. This requires changes to current zoning laws, which do not allow businesses that sell alcohol to be next to each other.

As for the safety of potential shoppers, he said the wide-open parking lot will allow police to “patrol it much better” once more businesses move in and provide a “presence” that makes customers feel safe.

“Right now, everyone in the world is coming to Las Vegas to invest. Hopefully, that will go on for several years, so people are looking at this area saying ‘hello?’ this is perfect!’” Segerblom said. “You can’t find a place with that much land, that close to a major economic area [the strip] anywhere in the country.”

The county commissioner added that a list of bars and entrepreneurs are waiting to move in, while some businesses from the Arts District have already done so for the cheaper rent. The changes could take up to two years to complete but could begin as early as February.