Building a Thriving Downtown Vegas: Noble’s Q&A with DVA Executive Director Carolyn Wheeler
We love the creativity, entrepreneurial spirit and innovation that’s been flourishing in Downtown Las Vegas for years. We wanted to be part of helping it continue to thrive. That’s why we bought a building in the heart of downtown Las Vegas at the beginning of 2020.
Making Meaningful Connections with Las Vegas
That love and intrigue we feel with downtown Las Vegas is also the reason we joined the Downtown Vegas Alliance (DVA), and why Noble partner B.C. LeDoux joined their board. We are always supportive of nonprofits, whether it’s through our Noble Deeds program or other types of community involvement, so we wanted to jump in, help where we can and create some more meaningful connections in our downtown neighborhood.
We asked DVA’s executive director, Carolyn Wheeler, to discuss the group and its mission to build deeper connections with the downtown Las Vegas community.
What is the Downtown Vegas Alliance?
The Downtown Vegas Alliance is a 501(c)(6) nonprofit organization that connects its members and downtown stakeholders to influence growth in the heart of Las Vegas through thought leadership and collaboration. We serve as a catalyst for both public and private dialogue to address challenges and create solutions to promote a thriving community in the city’s urban core. We deliver on our mission by convening our members and the public around timely and relevant topics and providing opportunities to interact with city leaders and community partners.
The members of the Downtown Vegas Alliance represent the diverse makeup of the Las Vegas community. They include major property owners, gaming companies, utilities, residential developers, large and small businesses, entrepreneurs, nonprofits, local government and public agencies that are active downtown, along with stakeholders from across the region. All of our members demonstrate a commitment to improving Downtown Las Vegas’ economic vitality and vibrancy.
What are some of the growth trends you’re seeing in downtown Las Vegas?
There is a resurgence of commerce in downtown Las Vegas and in urban centers across the country. The population is growing both older (aging Baby Boomers) and younger (Millennials and Gen Z). Both Boomer and Millennial markets have fueled downtown population growth over the past decade and, along with Gen Z, are poised to continue populating urban environments, particularly in cities that offer jobs, housing, amenities and activities that respond to their needs.
We have seen the demand for housing in downtown Las Vegas grow, especially during the pandemic, as people want to have the ease of access to work and play that an urban center affords. Development at Symphony Park, and in the business district at large, show the demand for housing highlighted in particular by home sales at the loft-style condominium high-rise, like Juhl, which is nearing a complete sell-out.
The city is responding by upgrading and building new infrastructure to support the growing population. This includes transportation projects and smart city initiatives in partnership with the Regional Transportation Commission and Cox Communications.
How were businesses in downtown Las Vegas impacted during the pandemic?
The COVID-19 pandemic changed the landscape of downtowns across the country, especially in Las Vegas. Though business shutdowns wreaked havoc on the economy, innovative ideas popped up in our market, spurring new business codes and programs that were created to help downtown businesses weather the storm.
We saw stores offering curbside retail shopping for everything from clothing to food and even cocktails. Outside dining pods and expanded sidewalks allowed restaurants to expand their seating capacity while complying with social distancing parameters.
How did the Downtown Vegas Alliance help these businesses?
The Downtown Vegas Alliance was a key partner during this time by helping ensure businesses had the information and resources they needed. DVA helped businesses with insights on applying for stimulus funding, implementing business best practices, and gaining access to personal protective equipment and advice from health industry professionals. We also worked with suppliers to negotiate bulk PPE pricing for small businesses as demand and prices soared.
We also led a collaboration of public and private partners to showcase the murals painted on the plywood boards that covered businesses during the shutdown. The Downtown Vegas Alliance led a coalition of business owners, artists, nonprofits and city officials to collect, store and eventually display the boards at an exhibit where the art and stories were shared.
These efforts and many others helped solidify the Downtown Vegas Alliance’s position as the leading voice of downtown Las Vegas, and as an indispensable partner for its business community.
How will the expansion of the Medical District help downtown Las Vegas and the Southern Nevada community?
The development and expansion in the Las Vegas Medical District will transform medical care in our community. The plans for the area will shape education, research and treatment to attract the high-quality practitioners a city of our size needs. Businesses of all types will benefit–not just those involved in building the medical school and surrounding buildings. It’s the restaurants, retail shops, professional and support services, residences and neighborhoods (and of course the medical offices) that will grow and become staples in what will surely be a newly diversified business district.
About Carolyn Wheeler
Carolyn Wheeler serves as Executive Director of the Downtown Vegas Alliance. She has an extensive leadership background in strategic planning, marketing, communications, nonprofit leadership, corporate social responsibility and community relations in a 30-year career that includes a five-year stint at Caesars Entertainment where she served as director of philanthropy and corporate social responsibility marketing and director of the Caesars Foundation.
Prior to Caesars Entertainment, Wheeler served as the Nevada state community development director for Citibank, held leadership roles at various Southern Nevada companies and nonprofit organizations as well as accruing significant experience in major advertising agencies in Las Vegas and her native California.
In addition to her role with the Downtown Vegas Alliance, Wheeler is a commissioner of Nevada Volunteers and serves on the board of Family to Family Connection, Las Vegas West, chairing the organization’s annual Touch-A-Truck event. She is a graduate of Leadership Las Vegas and volunteers with the Las Vegas chapter of National Charity League and Project Dot.