Originally published by Clay and Denise Heximer, Nevada Public Radio
Mar 24, 2015
They moved to Paradise Palms to bring some stylish love to a formerly fab neighborhood
When Clay and Denise Heximer bought their dream house in 2010, a midcentury-modern split level on a cul-de-sac in the heart of Paradise Palms, they were surrounded by exactly the kind of neighborhood they always wanted. Built by developer Irwin Molasky in the early 1960s, Paradise Palms was Las Vegas’ first master-planned community, and its golf course-adjacent, Palms Springs-inspired homes designed by famed architects Dan Palmer and William Krisel attracted such residents such as Johnny Carson, Debbie Reynolds and Bobby Darin.
By the time the Heximers moved in, however, the neighborhood was significantly less fabulous than during its 1960s heyday. Suburban sprawl and the housing crisis had taken their toll on Paradise Palms. Foreclosed, vacant houses dotted the landscape. Crime was becoming a problem. And the sense of community Clay and Denise sought was virtually nonexistent.
“It was clear that the neighborhood was affected by the recession and was visibly in a state of transition,” says Heximer.
Not content to let such a classic Vegas neighborhood slip any further into blight, the Heximers decided to get proactive. They held a Neighborhood Watch meeting at their house with just a handful of neighbors and a police officer present. “He said the best way to fight crime was to get to know your neighbors and to have monthly Neighborhood Watch meetings,” says Heximer.
“Clay and Denise were the spark,” says Dan Stafford, a Las Vegas native who lives in a Paradise Palms house originally owned by his grandparents. “They saw there needed to be some kind of a binding between neighbors. They put up the Paradise Palms website. They created the Facebook group.”
It was clear that the neighborhood was affected by the recession and was visibly in a state of transition.
Activity on that Facebook group, currently about 240 members strong, shows how active the Paradise Palms community is now, with residents sharing home renovation photos, reporting suspicious activity, trading maintenance tips and generally kvetching just the way Stafford’s grandparents likely did 40 years ago. The monthly Neighborhood Watch meetings evolved into the Paradise Palms Social Club, whose roving cocktail parties are hosted at a different resident’s house each month, inspired by the monthly Flamingo Club mixers hosted by residents in various downtown neighborhoods.
“I’m sure everyone was a little nervous at the first get-together,” Clay said, “but Jack LeVine (of VeryVintageVegas.com) brought some great Paradise Palms photos from the early ’60s that were able to get strangers to talk to one another. From there, the Social Club grew and grew. As of right now we are booked to 2017. There is definitely a strong and obvious pride of ownership here.” Pj Perez
by Bill Hughes
“It was clear that the neighborhood was affected by the recession and was visibly in a state of transition.”
by Bill Hughes
“I know of the struggles they’re going through because I’ve gone through them. I want them to know that there is a better possible life for them. They could do it. Obviously they have to work for it, but it’s out there.”
by Bill Hughes
“What it takes is a small group of very hard-working people who want to see it succeed.”
by Bill Hughes
“Instead of being a little town against a big developer, it became everyone who loves the canyon getting together to preserve its natural setting.”
by Bill Hughes
“If you have people who get along, who look out for each other, you take a little more pride in the place you live. We don’t intrude on each other’s space, but we’re there when needed.”
by Bill Hughes
East Las Vegas
This high school senior stuck around to help the troubled neighborhood where she grew up
The Stratosphere’s shadow stretches long but not very wide over Naked City. From outside the neighborhood looking in, it’s a sprawl of one- and two-story stucco and cinderblock apartment buildings north of Sahara Avenue between Industrial Road and Las Vegas Boulevard. Poverty and hopelessness have a counterbalance in the form of the Stupak Community Center, however, and in residents such as center volunteer Daylily Orduno. The new center, built in 2010, replaced its older namesake that once stood across the street, where a well-maintained park with a playground and small soccer field now exists.
Orduno, 18, is living testimony to the positive effects of The Neighborhood Partners Fund, a City of Las Vegas grant program that annually awards up to $5,000 to neighborhood associations for improvements. The Valley High School senior now volunteers at the Stupak Center — named for the late, colorful Stratosphere co-founder, Bob Stupak — in the afternoons, helping supervise pre-teens with working parents.
I know of the struggles they’re going through because I’ve gone through them.
“I guess it’s mostly so I could give back to the community since it has helped me too,” she says of her volunteering efforts. “But wanting to help the kids is more of the thing. I know of the struggles they’re going through because I’ve gone through them. I want them to know that there is a better possible life for them. They could do it. Obviously they have to work for it, but it’s out there.”
Orduno has lived in the neighborhood with her father and siblings for most of her life. She experienced it before NPF grants, when street gang activity made it safer to stay indoors.
“In my opinion, just because I live somewhere that is low-income or has really high crime rates doesn’t mean I’m going to turn out that way,” she says. “I feel like because of that I strive to do better, and I work harder for that.”
At the center, kids get instruction on healthy eating and fitness now, and access to better nutrition. Under the guidance of youth activities coordinator Sherry Alexander and the Police Athletic League, hikes to Red Rock and Lake Mead as well as a three-day camping trip to Mount Charleston were organized. Students who can’t afford fees that accompany interscholastic competition were able to join a community swim team that took first place in a meet.
The two-story center has had a positive effect on the surrounding streets as well, where Orduno says signs of gangs have diminished considerably. “Viewing something nice in a community that’s not all that great of a place helps them see that they can find something good even if everyone around them tells them its bad,” she says of her neighbors, adding that she intends to return to Naked City after serving in the Marines. “It has helped a lot.”
Michael Herrera and the Coventry Homes association
Social media is the virtual glue that brings this suburban community together in real life
Almost 50 people crammed into Michael Herrera’s living room for the inaugural Coventry Neighborhood Watch in 2003. It suggested to the local firefighter and family man that he wasn’t alone in his yearning for a stronger sense of community. During the years following the watch group’s formation, Herrera collected emails and maintained a communication chain in effort to foster neighborliness, but that didn’t quite do the trick. Then, in 2009, he created a Coventry Neighborhood Watch Facebook page and, suddenly, the 1,124-home subdivision started to feel a lot smaller — in a good way.
“It’s (now) very much like a community you might see back East, where everybody knows everybody,” says Lynette Ship. Ship moved into the Anthem suburb in 2011, when there were already 300 neighbors on the page. Facebook made it easy for her family to make friends and get involved. Today, she’s one of three administrators who manage the page, which has grown to be 760 friends strong and averages 10 friend requests per week.
Beyond keeping folks informed of Neighborhood Watch activity, the page works like a community bulletin board announcing movies in the park, spring flings, baseball outings and more. And event attendance is growing, too. Last year’s wine walk concluded with dinner for 150, on a cordoned-off cul de sac, as compared to the 60 wine enthusiasts who walked and sipped in the first year.
What it takes is a small group of very hardworking people who want to see it succeed.
“There’s no magic,” says Ship. “What it takes is a small group of very hardworking people who want to see it succeed.” She points to Herrera and his tireless watch group.
But Herrera credits the entire neighborhood. “We collect donations from each other and get volunteers from the community to host these events. The HOA isn’t paying for everything. It’s actually people taking a stake in their community, so they feel like a part of it.”
Nearly a dozen sub-pages have developed from the original, including a moms’ group, a fitness club, a poker club, a gardening club, and three different bunko groups. Even Coventry’s dogs and cats are better off. In the past six months, a dozen pets have been reunited with their owners, thanks to timely posted pics. They warn each other of coyote sightings, too. “And we keep an eye on each other’s kids,” says Ship. Plus, when folks are looking for babysitters, tools or a cup of sugar, Coventry’s residents can post online and get a steady stream of neighborly offers.
The group also pays forward this community spirit they’ve worked so hard to foster, anonymously adopting families from less fortunate neighborhoods at Christmas time. They organize fundraisers for their favorite charities, too. Out of this virtual social media tool have come some very real — and positive — results. Chantal Corcoran
Friends of Red Rock
They banded together to preserve the peace in their rural town. Along the way, the big city next door took up the fight, too
To city dwellers on the neon-lit side of Blue Diamond Hill, the small burg nestled in the western crux of the 159 might seem a bit eerie at night. So quiet, so dark. But to the 300 residents of Blue Diamond, it’s a peace worth fighting for — as is the family-friendly atmosphere that permeates the school, library, park, theater and swimming pool in the former gypsum-mine company town. “It’s so nice to have good people around you who know and watch out for each other,” says Heather Fisher, who’s raising four kids there. “We celebrate every holiday together. The store has regulars who sit on the front porch and have coffee together.”
A decade ago, a trucker shattered this tranquil tableau when he hit Metro police officer Don Albietz, who was riding his bike on the 159. His fellow Blue Diamond residents sprang into action, raising funds for the devastated family. After eight days in a coma, Albietz died, but the community channeled its grief into something positive: SaveRedRock.com. Fisher founded the site to promote safety for recreationists through lower speed limits, but it became a rallying point for anything that might threaten the area’s serenity — most notably Jim Rhodes’ planned high-density development on the defunct mine property.
“It was a 30-year construction project that would have introduced 45,000 car trips a day through the canyon,” Fisher says. “It started out that Blue Diamond was the watchdog for Red Rock, but it turned out that everybody in Vegas realized it would affect them, because they need a place to escape. So, instead of being a little town against a big developer, it became everyone who loves the canyon getting together to preserve its natural setting.”
Instead of being a little town against a big developer, it became everyone who loves the canyon getting together to preserve its natural setting.
Former state Sen. Justin Jones, whose kids attended school in Blue Diamond and whose district included the area, has remained active in negotiating a compromise with Rhodes since losing his seat in the 2014 elections. “The county made it clear that the project would be cost-prohibitive (because of required infrastructure),” Jones says. “We joined forces with Rhodes to press the BLM for a land-swap in the legislature. For the last couple months, things have been on hold, as the BLM has focused on its Resource Management Plan, but we’re keeping our eye on it.”
Meanwhile, the community is keeping its eyes on the BLM, which has included parts of Red Rock in a proposed “disposal area,” meaning they’d be open to development. “Red Rock is not disposable,” Fisher says, echoing a protest refrain. “It’s too sensitive to sell. You couldn’t develop it without impacting the tourism industry here.” Heidi Kyser
Green Valley South
Gary and Rachelle Carter
In a city where they say no one knows their neighbors, the people of Cottage Drive pull together to defy the stereotype
Before: a dense plant profusion, impossible for man or dog to get through. A jungle! “You couldn’t even see the patio,” Rachelle Carter says.
After: a backyard as clean and spare as a Hemingway sentence. Look, you can see the fence now.
Carter is shuffling through snapshots of neighbor Rich Lively’s wildly overgrown backyard; cleaning it out was the most recent group project on Cologne Drive, an older, settled street in Green Valley South. Medically ailing and getting up there in years, Lively was unable to maintain his yard himself. So his neighbors pitched in to handle it for him. First the front yard, then, about a year ago, that monster of a backyard. “His dog couldn’t even go out into it,” Rachelle says, still amazed.
What a job that was! Somewhere north of a hundred trash bags got filled, and Cologne Drive chipped in to hire a five-man work crew to help with the heavy work. (Even some residents who were out of town kicked in.) Took two garbage trucks to haul everything away, they say. It wasn’t all hard stuff, though; small gestures frequently abounded. Neighbors often provided Lively food or groceries. From Craigslist, Rachelle, a retired flight attendant, and her husband, Gary, an environmental engineer, bought him a walker and, later, a motorized chair. Lively died not long ago, but the Carters and the others at least know they made his home stretch a lot more livable.
That’s par for the neighborhood course, it seems. “We watch out for each other,” resident Joe Cotterman told a local paper during the backyard cleanup. Sick neighbors are brought meals. Your tree blows down while you’re on vacation, someone will help deal with it so you needn’t rush home. Police officers swing by for biannual Neighborhood Watch meetings, and the residents maintain a street-wide email list so everyone’s up to date on the neighborhood’s comings and goings.
If you have people who get along,” Gary says, “who look out for each other, you take a little more pride in the place you live. We don’t intrude on each other’s space, but we’re there when needed.
Some areas bond when residents rally around a cause, or respond to calamity or share cultural or ethnic similarities. Nothing so overt in this case. Nor does everyone block-party around margaritas on Friday night. Neither fortressed in solitude nor up in each others’ business, the people of Cologne Drive have struck the sort of fine balance so often said to be lacking in sterile, suburban Las Vegas: old-fashioned neighborliness spiked with bouts of above-average decency. That is, the sort of dynamic that any neighborhood can pull off, whether or not its residents have some other compelling reason to pull together.
Gary Carter credits it to the age of the neighborhood — and of the residents. Most are long-timers, some the original occupants of the 1980s-era homes. When they scouted the area 12 years ago before buying their house, Gary recalls, “It looked like people cared for their homes.” The people are settled, invested — not only in their properties, but also in their neighbors.
“If you have people who get along,” Gary says, “who look out for each other, you take a little more pride in the place you live. We don’t intrude on each other’s space, but we’re there when needed.” Scott Dickensheets
East Las Vegas
Victoria Bridges-Hudson and the Crossroads I homeowners association
When crime and drugs threatened their condo complex, they rallied to shed some light on the situation
Las Vegas was in the grip of a foreclosure-fueled recession, and Crossroads I — a sleepy residential island of condos amid eastside bars, convenience stores and laundromats — bubbled with symptoms. Squatters, drug dealers and prostitutes had infested the 128-unit complex on Stewart and Lamb. Yeah, infested. They had actually turned the vacant units into warrens where they hid out or brazenly ran their trade; they’d even smashed holes in the walls between condos for quick escape routes when the cops arrived on a call. Cars were routinely stolen, not to mention the mail. Still, there wasn’t much anyone could do about it. The condo owners’ association board was practically dead; they couldn’t meet half the time because they couldn’t get quorum. With no voice to speak up, no opposition to say enough already, Crossroads I was just another bad neighborhood.
The perfect time for Victoria Bridges-Hudson to show up in 2010. She was in the middle of a divorce and eyeing retirement from her career as an administrator at the state women’s prison. Not exactly the place for a new start, but that’s just what Bridges made of it as she settled into the community.
“I was determined to take the trash out,” says Bridges-Hudson, now vice president of the Crossroads I homeowners association. “You can’t let people walk all over you. If I see something wrong, I’m going to say something, and that’s my stance.”
You can’t let people walk all over you. If I see something wrong, I’m going to say something, and that’s my stance.
If you’re imagining Bridges-Hudson grabbing bad guys by their scruffs and tossing them to the curb, it’s not quite that gritty. The steps she took were small but significant. She used her vacation days to take classes offered by the state ombudsman on how to run a board. Working with Joan Phillips, Crossroads I’s community association manager, she breathed new life into the association. “It took a lot of recruiting to not just get a board that could have quorum, but one that shared common goals,” says Phillips. Bridges-Hudson also helped start a Neighborhood Watch program, and kindled a proactive relationship with the local police.
And then things really took off. When she learned of neighborhood improvement grants provided by the City of Las Vegas, Bridges-Hudson plunged into the paperwork. In 2013, Crossroads I landed $3,500 from the City of Las Vegas to buy and install security cameras. In 2014, it was awarded a $4,400 grant to improve the area’s lighting. Crime’s been dropping since. “Making this a more welcoming place gives me a sense of purpose,” says Bridges-Hudson.
Whereas once the drug-dealer warrens were the sketchy emblem of a condo community in disrepair, today a point of pride for the community is a colorful mural stretching along the south wall of the complex, painted by area teens in a youth-empowerment program. To Bridges-Hudson, it’s a reminder of how far they’ve come — step by gradual step. She says, “It’s all the little things you do that can have a greater impact, eventually.” Andrew Kiraly.