Fremont East District ~ Las Vegas 2013-’15

Fremont East District ~ Las Vegas 2013-’15

For those who have not ventured to East Fremont Street for a few years, many changes have been made.  East Fremont used to have the reputation of being “the other experience” not too long ago, but the extensive anti crime campaign that was waged during the Great Recession helped to tame the old crime infested East Fremont Street entertainment corridor.  The remnants of most of the old cheap motels from the days of original downtown Las Vegas Strip have now been boarded up and some have been razed to make way for new developments that are designed to bring life back into this old “Lost Vegas” zone. 

Starting in about 2009, redevelopment plans started being proposed for the entire East Fremont District. The first bold redevelopment plan was headed by CEO of Zappo’s Corporation, which brought in a fresh new positive attitude that was much needed. Every major change or grand opening of a new entertainment complex on East Fremont Street was covered by the media in order to promote the positive changes.  The East Fremont District originally was a highly regulated planned development guided by private investment capital and vested interests that caused some negativity to enter the picture. If an undesirable business or an eyesore stood in the way, then becoming a relic of the past was a risk factor, because the development planners used the city council and regulators force undesirable businesses to close their doors and sometimes the methods used were questionable.

Overall, the changes made to East Fremont Street were positive and the redevelopment project continues to this day.  East Fremont used to be a haven for street hustlers, hookers and drug dealers and this old seedy Las Vegas heritage has nearly disappeared in this area in recent years. As far as feedback goes, some like what they see, while others view the new flashy changes in the East Fremont Street as being just another pricy tourist trap corridor that is designed to appeal to the few and not the many.

As one can imagine, opening a new business on East Fremont Street to capitalize on a new opportunity is an appealing prospect for entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately the customer flow and traffic numbers originally did not increase at the same rate as the business development.  Part of this was due to the slow economic recovery from the Great Recession and the ensuing conservative consumer spending trends.  Part was due to the lack of an effective overall marketing agenda that promoted the East Fremont Entertainment District as a whole and this became evident when the controversial Container Park entered the picture, because it showed that developer planned sections ranked higher in importance than the old established individual shops.  Favoritism breeds resentment, so an “us against them” situation arose in the East Fremont business sector.

A local factor in the Las Vegas Valley that affects consumer traffic flow on East Fremont is the high marketplace saturation.  At least a dozen major shopping areas opened during the last few years of the Great Recession and the existing market was stretched too thin. Because of marketplace over-saturation, many of the new businesses failed during the first few years of the East Fremont renovation, which was like taking two steps forward just to take one step backward in the master plan.  

Having the awesome Fremont Experience right next door does relegate the East Fremont District as a secondary option for entertainment, shopping and dining.  During the daytime hours, few tourists venture east on Fremont Street, but at night the party goers are drawn to the old fashioned neon lights like a moth to a flame. 

One of the biggest draws for East Fremont in the early days of redevelopment was the monthly First Friday Festival Of The Arts Event. When a First Friday downtown event took place, East Fremont Street rolled out the welcome mat and all the local bars had a full house, because these party spots offered what the local crowd liked. Underage drinking became a problem and of course this all ended up bringing controversy too, which did not help the cause.

Why are all those unsightly storage containers stacked up on East Fremont Street? … This is a comment that many people make when they first see Container Park!  Few people laud the sight of a business district made out of converted storage containers, but the original concept idea is sound.  The “Business In A Portable Shipping Container” concept involves filling an empty tract of land with business infrastructure as quickly as possible.  This idea is good for places that are wiped out by a natural disaster and it does work in fast growth developing areas where infrastructure lags behind.  

Apparently a developer involved with the Downtown Project saw the “shipping container business infrastructure relief” idea as something that would fit in with the fast developing East Fremont Street project.  The novel idea was to open shops as quickly as possible, so the demands of the local population would be met.  Unfortunately only a small percentage of the local population could afford to hang around in the pricy shops, so the Container Park actually focused on being a new kind of tourism draw.  

Shipping container businesses are usually temporary fixtures that are eventually replaced as development funding for major projects gains strength.  As expected, during the next few decades the destiny of Container Park will be up in the air.  For the time being, Container Park provides an amusing atmosphere for onlookers.  There are good places to wine and dine in the Container Park steel boxes and Pinches Tacos was a local favorite, just because people wanted to defend the business name.  The prudish Container Park management demanded that Pinches Tacos remove their business sign due the controversial meaning of the business name, so do not be surprised to see a no-name Mexican restaurant in this sun scorched sheet metal plaza. All I can say is the Darkness Supreme Taco there was pretty good and this restaurant offered the best dining value in Container Park back then. The Downtown Container Park is a must to see and it is fun to criticize or compliment this development idea with other people that are scratching their heads in wonder!

Those who seek the classic Vegas experience or visiting remnants of the Atomic Age can still find what they are looking for in the East Fremont District.  The El Cortez is a historic casino property that was originally operated by the gangster Bugsy Siegal.  The El Cortez has undergone a few major renovations during recent years and the luxury hotel room wing was modernized.  This old historic casino is a great place to rub elbows in the sports & race book or at the gaming tables.  Classic cocktails and a good old fashioned western style steak dinner can be found at the historic El Cortez, just like back in the old days!  

Fremont Street East has always been famous for great dive bars and Atomic Liquors is a landmark party destination that has many claims to fame.  Atomic Liquors has been around since 1952.  This bar is one of the few survivors from the golden age of old downtown Las Vegas when Fremont Street was The Strip.  Atomic Liquors was a primary local watering hole for the last few decades and now this nostalgic bar has captured the attention of the trendy go-getters in the modern age.  Atomic Liquors is a great place to get a good drink for a modest price on East Fremont Street.  Outdoor seating is available and old fashioned Vegas style relaxed comfort is the word.  The signature cocktails cannot be beat and the “Atomic F-Bomb” signature cocktail concoction is definitely nuclear to say the least!

The East Fremont District is a continually evolving project these days. There is only one way to keep up with the changes and that is to stroll down this old historic street!  East Fremont is no longer referred to as “The Other Experience” in a negative way and this old Las Vegas entertainment district is now a new frontier that offers more to see and do each day as time moves on!


Author: wildwestdestinations

I worked as a chef in remote resorts and National Parks, which provided the time to explore western travel destinations. I have a BA Degree in Culinary Management with high honors and currently I am working on a Masters Degree in Adult Education. My food and travel blog writing began as a means to generate income during college and now photo journalism has become my lifestyle.

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