Two socially-engaging arts and culture themed “placemaking” projects in Las Vegas and Reno are resonating with locals and visitors — forging connections and a positive “sense of place” that draws repeat visits to entertainment districts.
Area 15: Immersive Art Experiences & More
In February 2021, a huge experiential entertainment venue, Area 15 opened in a black-box warehouse just west of the Las Vegas Strip on an I-15 service road. [*1] The indisputable star draw is OmegaMart, an ingeniously imaginative “other worldly” interactive art installation created by Meow Wolf, the disruptor artists and storytellers collaborative of Santa Fe. [*2] Another 20 or so amusements and performance entities plus food and drink outlets round out the collection, including a 360º Digital Art Exhibition entitled “Van Gogh: The Immersive Experience.” Area 15 partners created an “immersive playground, all rolled into a vast and vibrant space” unlike any other in Nevada. Sounds like a modest understatement, based solely on enthusiastic reviews from locals and visitors of all ages, including a writer who featured Area 15 in a New York Times May 2021 travel piece. [*3]
Reno is “Putting a Lid” on the ReTRAC Plaza Mural
On June 11, the City of Reno “puts a lid” on the ReTRAC Plaza Mural. Part of the ReTRAC beautification project, which wraps after an army of community volunteers completes painting the colorful street mural by Philadelphia muralist Brad Carney. The new ReTRAC Plaza creates an attractive public arts space in the heart of Reno’s planned entertainment district atop a cover (or lid) that spans unused railroad tracks in a trench that once divided the city. [*4] The “Creative Placemaking” project funded with a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant. [*5] ReTRAC Plaza was featured in a New York Times story about urban revitalization projects published in May 2021. [*6]
Placemaking in Progress: Arts & Culture Meccas are Places That Pull Repeat Visitors with Economic Rewards
Area 15 in Las Vegas and the ReTRAC Plaza project in Reno are examples of innovative “Creative Placemaking” that will only grow in stature as beckoning destination places.
But there’s something else interesting happening at Area 15 related to a Placemaking trend in the commercial real estate industrial sector.
Traditionally, industrial warehouses are isolated to avoid offending residents with delivery truck noise and subsequent road wear in residential areas. But Area 15, the entertainment venue in a warehouse on the edge of the interstate, draws people into an industrial park that’s quickly becoming a Las Vegas landmark “place” with regulars who love it.
“Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” [*7]
Placemaking 2005 to present: Turning Public Spaces into Meaningful Places
A collaborative partnership between planners, city staff, elected officials, and community stakeholders offers the best odds of successfully designing public space that suits most stakeholders. It requires a spirit of mutual collaboration and cooperation, particularly when community groups are guided by artists and experts who guide residents to reaching helpful conclusions about how they might use the proposed changing space.
When community development and public space design reflect and honor the expressed wishes of the majority, public space becomes meaningful to residents and businesses in the area. The community gains as residents and businesses settle in, investing more while gaining deeper feelings about their “place” and “role” within the community. The community also benefits from the area’s associated positive reputation and increased property values; and economic stability of a market area in which residents and businesses are increasingly loyal to each other.
That’s Placemaking at a minimum and a variant form is “Creative Placemaking,” which describes how the physical and social character of a neighborhood, city, etc., is shaped around arts and cultural activities in inclusive, rewarding ways. [*8]
How Placemaking at Area 15 and ReTRAC Plaza contribute to economic recovery
If you read our blog entitled “Nevada Businesses Within Three Megapolitans Gain Reach from California Coast to Denver,” you may recall that in December of 2020, the Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) released a report entitled “The Future Beyond the Pandemic: Nevada’s Plan for Recovery & Resilience.” [*9]
The report included Governor Sisolak’s intention for use Placemaking as a tactic that lifts the Nevada economy closer to post-pandemic recovery.
The Area 15 and ReTRAC Plaza projects will likely benefit from Creative Placemaking because Nevadans have historically supported the arts and cultural economic sector. Area 51 has been quite active since opening and is already contributing to the Nevada economy. Nevada’s arts and culture sector contributed $8.7 billion or 5.5 percent to the state’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017, according to a fact sheet released in late March of this year by Americans for the Arts. [*10]
National media coverage received by both Area 15 and the ReTRAC Plaza project will likely contribute to their positive standings within this market.
If you’re feeling inspired and want to create your own Nevada destination, RM&D is up for the challenge of turning your vision and investment into a rewarding venture.
RM&D is a one-stop, full-service boutique company with the expertise and network that’s in position and ready to make things happen when you’re ready to invest in creating or expanding your Northern Nevada business presence.
Area15 Photos: Laurent Velazquez from Area15.com Media Kit (link to https://area15.com/)ReTrac Plaza Renderings by Stantec.
1. Area15, website, https://area15.com/about
2. Meow Wolf, website: https://meowwolf.com/visit/las-vegas
3. Jones, Finn-Olaf, “Not Your Pre-Pandemic Las Vegas,” New York Times, May 21, 2021: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/21/travel/las-vegas-new-attractions.html
4. Downtown Reno Partnership, https://downtownreno.org/retrac-beautification-project
5. Asphalt Art Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies, https://asphaltart.bloomberg.org
6. Mohn, Tanya, “Taking Art to the Streets,” New York Times, May 20, 2021:
7. “Jane Jacobs and the Center,” https://centerforthelivingcity.org/janejacobs#info
8. Markuson, Ann and Nicodemus, Anne Gadwa, “Creative Placemaking,” White Paper, Metris Arts Consulting, https://metrisarts.com/creative-Placemaking/
9. Roland Stephen and J.R. Sullivan of the Center for Innovation Strategy and Policy, SRI International in collaboration with RCG Economics and Brookings Mountain West. “The Future Beyond the Pandemic: Nevada’s Plan for Recovery & Resilience.” Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development. December 2020. https://goed.nv.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Nevada-Recovery-and-Resiliency-Plan-FINAL.pdf
10. Americans for the Arts. “Why the Arts Matter in Nevada.” Fact Sheet. March 15, 2021. https://www.artsactionfund.org/sites/artsactionfund.org/files/2021-03/Nevada%202021.pdf