Vegas gambles on downtown upgrade

Sign greets people to Las Vegas

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Renita Jablonski: In the midst of this housing bust, downtown Las Vegas is going forward with a $6 billion project.
It includes a Frank Gehry-designed brain research center, a casino and tons of new residential space. Workers break ground today on infrastructure fixes. Jeremy Hobson has more.


Jeremy Hobson: The project called Union Park is funded almost entirely by private money. And that's part of the reason it just might work, says Jeff Soule of the American Planning Association.

Jeff Soule: The importance of the balance between the city setting the framework and then encouraging developers to come in and play a role in that overall vision, I think that's the only way great cities are developed.

Soule says the project is attractive to investors because of its comprehensive plan and because of its location in an existing and walkable downtown area. But there's another reason Vegas can keep a massive project like Union Park going during a downturn. Cheering up economically depressed people is what the city does best, says Vegas real estate expert Stephen Bottfeld.

Stephen Bottfeld: Think of it this way: Las Vegas is to the 21st century what movies were to the 1930s. We are where people will go when things are bad.

As long as that remains the case, the project will be able to stay on target for completion in 2018.

I'm Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace.

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