February 2019 Newsletter

Q&A with new SNS director Dan Reuter

Reuter brings extensive regional planning experience to Southern Nevada from Georgia

After an extensive national search, Dan Reuter was selected as the new director of Southern Nevada Strong (SNS). Dan started his new post on January 2 after relocating from Decatur, Ga., in late December. Dan is a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners (FAICP), and comes to Southern Nevada after spending nearly three decades in urban and regional planning in Georgia.

We sat down with Dan for a quick Q&A in mid-January to see how his transition to Southern Nevada was going. For Dan’s full bio and resume, click here.

So Dan, you relocated to Southern Nevada less than a month ago. What are your first impressions of the region?

There’s definitely a lot to do here, which is great. I’m looking forward to all of the recreation, entertainment, and dining options. And the natural environment – especially the snow-capped mountains – is stunning.

Has anything surprised you?

It’s been a little colder than I expected. We even got some snow recently, which surprised me a bit.

There is less traffic and congestion here. I think it has a real impact on people. Folks seem a little less anxious, maybe even a little more pleasant, than in Atlanta.

What part of town are you living in?

I rented a loft condo in Downtown Las Vegas, which I picked because it’s so close to the RTC office. I didn’t bring a car with me from Atlanta, so being within biking distance was a must for me.

Wait, you’re going car-free?

That’s the plan. And so far, it’s been pretty easy. I can get to the office in less than 10 minutes using Bike Share. For longer trips, I can utilize the transit system, Uber or Lyft, or even rent a car. Overall, it’s going to be much cheaper and cleaner than owning a car.

What are you going to miss most about Georgia?

Both of my daughters are in college back in Atlanta. I miss them a lot. But I’m sure they’re going to enjoy coming out here for visits.

You have a wealth of local and regional planning experience. Summarize it for us in less than 30 seconds. Ready, set, go!

Wow, that’s quite the test.

You’ve already lost 2 seconds.

OK, I led regional planning initiatives and programs at the Atlanta Regional Commission (ARC) for 17 years and helped establish major public-private economic programs in Atlanta, including the Atlanta Aerotropolis Alliance and Peachtree Gateway Partnership.

Prior to that, from 1989 to 1999, I served as a transportation planner and director at several Metropolitan Planning Organizations (MPOs) in Georgia, including in Athens, Savannah, Glynn County, and Douglas County.

I spent the past two years consulting on projects to advance the role of public-private organizations working on metro Atlanta planning.

You earned your bachelor’s degree from University of Georgia, a master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State, and taught graduate-level regional planning courses at Georgia Tech. All great schools. But where do your college football allegiances lie?

I’m a Georgia Bulldog at heart. My first job was selling Coca-Cola at Georgia football games.

What about Southern Nevada and SNS drew you to the other side of the country?

I was ready for new challenge, and there’s so much opportunity here. I spent two-plus decades in Atlanta working to advance transit-oriented development (TOD) and Livable Center Initiative (LCI) projects, and I think there’s a lot of opportunity for those types of projects here.

When I call it a career, I want to be able to say I helped create good urban and suburban places on both sides of the country.

I also love the outdoors and being out west offers a ton of new hiking, biking, and camping opportunities.

Regional planning is the norm in Georgia, but is a relatively new concept for Southern Nevada. How does that change?

I think we have to demonstrate how regional planning and collaboration benefits everyone. Most of the pressing issues in any region cross borders and jurisdictional lines. Air quality and water conservation and the education system impact the entire region and can only be addressed through regional efforts.

What are your priorities for your first 100 days on the job?

A lot of listening and absorbing, as well as building relationships with staff the RTC, elected officials, and our regional partners. I want to learn as much about the history of planning and growth in the valley as I can. And I want to get a better idea of activities that are currently underway that SNS may be able to bolster, especially within housing, health, and sustainability efforts. Supporting the MPO and others working on advancing TOD planning also seems like an obvious priority too.


Metro introduces innovative jail-diversion program to curb low-level drug arrests, combat opioid epidemic

Mia Johnson has been stopped by the police more than a few times during her lifetime.

So when she was approached by officers last summer, she thought she knew what to expect. Most likely a citation for lodging in a park. A short jail stay wouldn’t be out the question.

But that’s not what happened.

Instead, Johnson was given a choice: In lieu of a citation, she could choose to receive assistance and treatment.

After 40-plus years of struggling with addiction – the last four on the streets of Las Vegas – she was ready for the help officers were offering.

Through the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s new Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion (LEAD) program, Johnson was enrolled in treatment and counseling programs, secured a new ID, and signed up for eligible public benefits.

Today, she’s off the streets, living in an apartment secured through HELP of Southern Nevada, has maintained her treatment and counseling, and is looking to reenter the workforce.

LEAD was first developed and introduced in 2011 in Seattle, where police officers were given the discretion to connect certain low-level offenders – like those busted for drug possession or prostitution – with case workers instead of arresting them. The program has since been replicated in more than 20 cities across the country.

Eligible individuals have the opportunity to receive treatment and are connected with resources and services, and able to bypass the costs and time associated with booking, charging, and required court appearances.

The program also emphasizes and necessitates collaboration between law enforcement, city and county officials, service providers, and neighborhood and advocacy groups.

LEAD was introduced to Metro through Captain William Scott, who recognized the program as an opportunity to combat Southern Nevada’s growing opioid crisis and help address underlying issues that often afflict low-level offenders who frequently cycle in and out of the criminal justice system.

In 2017, Scott, who learned of LEAD at a national conference, assembled a small team to research the program and develop a plan for implementing it locally. For the better part of a year, Scott’s team visited Seattle to learn from the program’s originators, researched other LEAD programs implemented across the country, and began developing a network of service providers willing to partner with Metro.

Last summer, Metro launched a LEAD pilot program out of the Southeast Area Command, which was selected due to the high concentration of drug overdoses and narcotics-related calls received on Boulder Highway.

Although it’s been just over six months since its full launch, Metro has been pleased with the early results. As of early February, nearly 50 individuals assessed by LEAD officers have been referred to social service providers. Of those referred, nearly 60 percent were diverted from citation or arrest and were given the opportunity to receive treatment.

Those numbers will likely soon increase.

Metro plans to expand the program to additional area commands throughout 2019, according to Lissette Ruiz, an officer with the LEAD unit who worked with Scott from the early stages to bring the program to Metro.

LEAD officers Lizzette Ruiz and Marquis HinesLEAD officers Lissette Ruiz and Marquis Hines

Ruiz, currently one of two LEAD officers, will also be getting additional support. Through a partnership with HELP of Southern Nevada, two case managers dedicated to the LEAD program are expected to be hired to coordinate services for eligible individuals, freeing up Ruiz and her partner to continue building relationships in the community and train fellow officers on the program.

“Our goal is to implement LEAD valley-wide over the next few years,” said Ruiz. “We want it to become another tool officers can use to help address addiction on the streets, as well as show the community that we’re here to help.”

Implementing successful local and national examples of community-based partnerships with law enforcement to improve safety in communities experiencing high crime rates is an important component of the complete communities envisioned in the Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) regional plan.

For more information on the LEAD program, contact Metro’s Office of Community Engagement.

Note: To protect the privacy of certain individuals, the names and certain identifying details have been changed in the story.


Southern Nevada recipient of more than $5.6M in grants for innovative transportation solutions

Before & after Before and after conceptual designs of potential transit oriented development on Maryland Parkway in downtown Las Vegas (credit: Windom Kimsey/TSK Architects)

Two Opportunity Sites in the Southern Nevada Strong Regional Plan are receiving federal attention and funding to increase transportation choice and implement innovative solutions.

Both the City of Las Vegas and the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada (RTC) were awarded federal grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) and the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for projects in the Las Vegas Medical District and the Maryland Parkway corridor, respectively.

The USDOT allocated $5.3 million from its BUILD Grant for an automated circulator and pedestrian safety project in the Medical District. The project, called GoMed, is to connect downtown Las Vegas to the growing district via four autonomous shuttles.

GoMed aims to enhance safety, particularly for the elderly and persons with disabilities, through the deployment, operation, and analysis of innovative pedestrian safety technologies that connect traffic signals, drivers, passengers, and pedestrians. These include connected vehicle service, pedestrian detection software, smart transit shelters, and improved Wi-Fi throughout the area.

“We continue to be at the forefront of new technologies, and this is another example of the excitement and expansion happening in our medical district,” said Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman.

The Las Vegas Medical District is comprised of 684 acres of medical facilities that serve nearly 200,000 patients annually and will employ about 6,000 individuals by 2020. The district includes four hospitals and the new University of Nevada-Las Vegas (UNLV) School of Medicine campus.

GoMed is slated to begin service in 2020. Read more about the project in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Additionally, the FTA awarded the City of Las Vegas and RTC $300,000 to develop a transit-oriented development (TOD) plan for Maryland Parkway, a corridor ripe for redevelopment and new investment. The grant will evaluate the potential for TOD opportunities along and near transit stops on Maryland Parkway from Sahara Avenue through downtown to the Las Vegas Medical District.

TOD incorporates a mix of residential and commercial development with walkable neighborhoods near public transit stops. TOD can stimulate economic investment in a neighborhood while offering residents easy access to employment, education, housing, restaurants and shopping.

“In communities with high-capacity transit, economic development follows,” said RTC General Manager Tina Quigley. “This grant helps ensure we have a strategic and collaborative plan so development occurs in a thoughtful manner benefitting everyone.”

Since Phoenix opened its light rail line in 2008, TOD has topped $10.1 billion in private and public capital investment near the initial 26 miles of light rail. Another $807 million in commercial and residential building is being planned, mostly from private developers.

In conjunction with On Board, a comprehensive plan for the future of mobility in Southern Nevada, the RTC is conducting an environmental assessment of Maryland Parkway to determine the transportation option best suited to the corridor’s needs. The proposed project would include a high-capacity transit system with three options considered: improving the current RTC Route 109 serving Maryland Parkway, introducing bus-rapid transit (a bus-only travel lane with fewer stops), or light rail.

The public is invited to submit comments about the Maryland Parkway environmental assessment through Thursday, March 7. For more information about the Maryland Parkway transportation project or to submit a comment about the proposed plan, visit rtcsnv.com/Maryland-Parkway.


Rose Gardens redux

New low-income senior apartment complex opens across the street from original location

Residents of the 43-year old Rose Gardens senior apartments in North Las Vegas began relocating to their new homes last month at the brand new Rose Gardens community located across the street.

Though the new complex will maintain the name of its predecessor, the similarities end there.

Residents of the recently completed Rose Gardens won’t need to worry about the persistent plumbing issues or air conditioning malfunctions that plagued the old complex. Instead, they’ll be able to enjoy larger apartment units that include energy-efficient appliances and a private balcony, or spend time at one of the various community spaces, like the fitness areas, music and billiards room, or outdoor patios.

Additional amenities include a dog park, library, computer lab with free high-speed internet, and on-site resident services.

The project, a partnership between affordable housing developer Nevada HAND and the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority (SNRHA), was the first to include permanent resident relocation to a new facility in the region. Moving services for the residents were coordinated through Nevada HAND and SNRHA.

The new 120-unit complex cost approximately $20 million to complete and was facilitated through the federal Rental Assistance Demonstration (RAD) program, which allows housing authorities to form public-private partnerships and borrow private money to repair and rebuild public housing.

The project is part the city of North Las Vegas’s Choice Neighborhood Initiative (CNI), which aims to improve the surrounding neighborhood. In 2013, Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) helped the city apply for and receive the Housing & Urban Development (HUD) CNI planning grant that led to a re-envisioning of the neighborhood around downtown North Las Vegas. The redevelopment of Rose Garden was a key component of the plan.

A grand-opening ceremony and ribbon-cutting, which featured remarks from local elected officials and dignitaries, was held in late January at the new property.

Rose Gardens is an income and age-restricted property serving low-income seniors over the age of 55.

Ensuring diverse housing types for all preferences and income levels in Southern Nevada is a critical component of the complete communities envisioned in the SNS regional plan. The plan includes strategies and recommendations for ensuring an adequate supply of housing with a range of price, density, ownership and building types.


UNLV closes out 2018 with historic achievements

Earns prestigious ‘R1’ research classification and public health accreditation

UNLVThe University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) joined the ranks of some of the top academic institutions in the country late last year.

In December, the university was elevated to an “R1” institution, which is reserved for doctoral universities with the highest levels of research activity, by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education.

R1 is the gold standard for university research classifications. UNLV is now one of just 130 academic institutions nationwide with the esteemed distinction.

This news came just weeks after UNLV’s School of Community Health Sciences (SCHS) was designated as the first accredited school of public health in the state, and one of just 66 in the world, by the Council of Education for Public Health (CEPH).

Both accomplishments boost UNLV’s continued press toward its Top Tier Initiative, a campus-wide strategic plan to join the ranks of the top public universities in research, education, and community impact by 2025. Achieving Top Tier status includes earning the R1 Carnegie classification.

Community leaders prioritized investment in UNLV throughout the Southern Nevada Strong (SNS) Regional Plan, most notably because of the direct impact that higher education institutions can have on research and development, and the local economy.

In fact, the first major priority within the Increasing economic competitiveness and education goal is to “Pursue a stronger higher education system that includes a UNLV medical school and a Tier One research institution.”

“It’s an exciting time to be at UNLV. These recent accomplishments are helping to elevate the position of our education system and driving the conversation around its impact on the region,” said Shawn Gerstenberger, Dean of the School of Community Health Sciences.

And Gerstenberger should know. In addition to serving as SCHS Dean and being involved in Top Tier Initiative, he also serves on the SNS steering committee and was involved in the planning and development of the SNS Regional Plan from its nascent stages.

“Southern Nevada is experiencing tremendous growth. To continue this progress and remain competitive, SNS is dedicated to working with community partners to improve education attainment so that we can produce a quality workforce that will meet the needs of the future.”


News Beyond the Valley

Beyond our valley

Here are a handful of stories that have caught our attention. Each article highlights how innovative, forward-thinking regional planning, policies, and initiatives can have tangible community impacts.

How land-rich, cash-poor faith groups are creating affordable housing

With a mix of Christian charity and pragmatism, churches are quietly creating low-income housing in the Washington D.C. area- and cities across the United States are taking notice.

Tokyo’s new strategy for easing subway overcrowding: Free soba, tempura

To ease the morning rush traffic, the city’s Metro will reward riders with buckwheat noodles and tempura for traveling outside peak hours.

Minneapolis confronts its history of housing segregation

By doing away with single-family zoning, the city takes on high rent, long commutes, and racism in real estate in one fell swoop.

Michigan Mobility Challenge funds paratransit services, autonomous shuttles

Four mobility-focused technological initiatives in Michigan will share $4.7 million in state grants to help address transit gaps for groups that could be neglected in the rapidly changing transportation space.

Norway’s energy-positive building spree is here

The European Union has a target of making all new buildings zero-energy by 2020, but in Norway, carbon neutrality isn’t enough. Oslo’s Powerhouse collective wants buildings that make better cities in the face of climate change.

In Metro DC, a dead mall now provides housing for the homeless

As malls empty, an old Macy’s in Alexandria, Va., become a homeless shelter. The idea that spurred this transformation represents a new way of thinking that is bringing together three economic phenomena: the collapse of the brick-and-mortar retail industry, the disappearance of affordable housing in America’s boom towns, and the struggle to reduce homelessness, which remains as intractable as ever.