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OGDEN UNDERPASS MAKEOVER

<p>The three architectural teams are competing for the city contract to turn the Ogden Avenue underpass off Main Street into a vibrant pedestrian corridor. Competitors include, back row left, Drew Gregory, Eric Strain, Albert Brown, David Ryan, Dave Rowe and Joshua Vermillion, and front row from left, Clemente Cicoria, Zak Ostrowski, Glen Curry and Jonathon Anderson.</p>

The three architectural teams are competing for the city contract to turn the Ogden Avenue underpass off Main Street into a vibrant pedestrian corridor. Competitors include, back row left, Drew Gregory, Eric Strain, Albert Brown, David Ryan, Dave Rowe and Joshua Vermillion, and front row from left, Clemente Cicoria, Zak Ostrowski, Glen Curry and Jonathon Anderson.

Downtown’s Ogden Avenue underpass is getting a much needed makeover, transforming an ugly unremarkable stretch of asphalt into a vibrant pedestrian corridor. (It looks like a prime location for a mugging).

An architecture-art project sponsored by the Las Vegas Public Works Department and City Arts Commission, in conjunction with COLAB Gallery, should soon change the area with a spiffy $500,000 upgrade to an 840-foot-long section of Ogden between Main Street and City Parkway. The roadway, which saw 5,900 vehicles a day in 2012, is playing an increasingly important role in downtown redevelopment tying together Symphony Park, Molasky Corporate Center and the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

Three teams of local architects brainstormed over a 48-hour caffeine-fueled weekend Dec. 7-8 to create concepts that inject greater walkability, excitement and identity into the corridor. It’s no easy task. The four-lane avenue has narrow sidewalks, poor lighting, and no landscaping, plus an exhaust-filled, noisy underpass dangerous for pedestrians.

The city plans to widen sidewalks and add guardrails, but the rest is being left to the off-center imagination of contestants. Competition parameters loosely outline a need for improved lighting and added visual interest, while conceptually referencing the radiant energy and excitement of neon.

“The area lacks greenery, including trees, shrubs and plants, which can screen wind and sun, while offsetting car emissions with fresh oxygen production,” architect and contest competitor Eric Strain said.

“The corridor could use more contextual and cultural connection to the city’s past and future,” added rival competitor and architect Drew Gregory.

Infrastructure, art and architecture pairings are still new to Southern Nevada, though several successful examples exist in major metropolitan cities. Diller Scofidio + Renfro, for example, turned an abandoned freight railway through Manhattan’s lower west side into an elevated public park walkway and gallery showcase. The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge features a public art light installation by Leo Villareal on the western span’s vertical cables, and Chicago’s Millennium Park has a Frank Gehry bandstand with a serpentine pedestrian bridge.

Local teams, meanwhile, vying to enhance Odgen Avenue, will receive a $1,000 stipend for their efforts. A winner will be named today, Thursday, advancing to a second round where the winning scheme is developed into a buildable plan. The city budgeted $50,000 for design, and another $450,000 for construction, which is scheduled to begin in the summer of 2014. CL