Water Street: Henderson, Nevada

Without many local businesses, retail, or restaurants, Water Street once drew very little foot traffic to Henderson, Nevada. But in 2000, the introduction of the Downtown Henderson Investment Strategy provided a plan to start bringing life to the street. The strategy had one goal: to bring new businesses and vibrancy to Water Street and the downtown area.

Water Street's transformation suffered a setback with the nationwide recession that began in 2007. Perhaps the most significant hurdle was that the overall condition of downtown — its eclectic mix of existing uses, the deteriorating condition of its existing building inventory, and low population and median income figures were not conducive to instant success.

Water Street District welcome sign at sunset. Photo by Mikel Photography.

A Water Street District welcome sign at sunset. Photo by Mikel Photography.

But the City of Henderson made the rebirth of Water Street a top priority with political support from community leaders like former Mayor James B. Gibson, former Mayor Andy Hafen, current Mayor Debra March, and current and former city council members (who also serve on the Henderson Redevelopment Agency Advisory Commission), a clear public vision, and a will to succeed.

The City of Henderson Redevelopment Agency has created a refined vision of an authentic downtown core that is welcoming to everyone. It provides community gathering space, as well as a collection of retail, professional services, family and nightlife entertainment, employment centers, and educational opportunities.

To gather community support for this vision, Henderson's outreach efforts focused on engaging all segments of Henderson residents, including hard-to-reach and normally marginalized groups. Henderson community members, including residents, local business leaders, nonprofit groups, faith-based organizations, private- and public-sector stakeholders, elected officials and other community groups, weighed in to help define a shared vision for the community.

During the four phases of public outreach, the City of Henderson used a broad array of tools and techniques to gather public input, including focus groups, targeted stakeholder interviews, online surveys, intercept surveys, hybrid open house, and speaking engagements. More than 26,000 residents were reached through the public engagement process, with 5,500 survey responses and 1,700 in-person attendees to various "Henderson Strong" events.

Henderson Hot Rod Days on Water Street. Photo by Mikel Photography.

Henderson Hot Rod Days on Water Street. Photo by Mikel Photography.

Currently, Water Street is included in a Downtown Complete Streets project, which is making physical improvements to provide safer, more inviting pedestrian and bicycle access. These improvements have, in turn, helped set the stage for more development downtown.

As a result of the forward-looking vision and commitment to improving the downtown core, Water Street has seen notable economic growth. New businesses include a new local brewery, several bars and restaurants, a coffee shop, new office spaces, and plans for residential units and a brand-new Henderson hockey facility.