Kudos to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh and the Downtown Project
Last summer, my family and I went to the Mile High City, otherwise known as Denver, for our annual vacation. We chose Denver because we’re thinking about moving to the Rocky Mountain state once my daughter graduates from high school and also because there’s so much to do in Denver with plenty to see. Museums, landmarks, zoos and the awesome historic bookstore, Tattered Cover (I’m a book geek), were just some of the many sites we planned on visiting. My family and I weren’t disappointed. In fact, we were pleasantly surprised how trendy, contemporary, cultural and diverse Denver was while managing to keep its sense of history. This vintage “feel” could mostly be seen in Denver’s lower Downtown District or LoDo, as it’s commonly referred to. I remember thinking to myself, “Why can’t Las Vegas have a downtown like this?”
I remember thinking the same thing when I went to Phoenix five years ago. Again, it was a family vacation and like all of our vacations, I strive to expose my children to something educational as well as entertaining. We visited two of the museums located downtown and not only was I impressed with the entire “educational” experience, I was also blown away by how nice Downtown Phoenix appeared to be. Like LoDo, it was a blend of contemporary with bits of historic scenery; I had heard that Phoenix’s downtown area had recently begun a revitalization and boy, was it impressive.
When I learned of Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, plans to revitalize Downtown Las Vegas, I cheered with a resounding, “Finally! Yes. This is awesome news.” Not only did Mr. Hsieh move Zappos headquarters from Henderson to Downtown, he also invested millions of dollars towards revamping that part of Las Vegas that I admit, never really appealed to me. The sad thing is that Downtown Las Vegas has a lot of history, in fact, it’s one of the few places in Las Vegas that has retained most of its nostalgia. Yet, many parts of Downtown were neglected, rundown and crime-ridden. Not a fun place to be.
With the Fremont Experience and new bars and restaurants and stylish lofts and condos, Downtown Las Vegas seemed to be on the verge of something refreshing but familiar. Kind of like a favorite pair of shoes you had when you were a little girl but now they are current and modern. Then the recession happened and Las Vegas became the largest victim to foreclosures and construction standstills. On the brink of economic collapse, I was sure that Downtown Las Vegas would remain that part of town that most residents of the Las Vegas suburbs avoid unless you had to go to court. But Mr. Hsieh obviously was not deterred by the change in the economic climate and decided to sally on with his plans to see Downtown become an urban treasure, rich with culture, music, arts, technology and education.
Now with the Smith Center, the new Lied Discovery Children’s Museum, the Mob Museum and the new City Hall making their grand presence in Downtown, I truly believe Las Vegas will become known for more than just its slot machines and endless buffets. Kudos to you, Mr. Hsieh, for your vision and promise of turning a ramshackle community into a place of innovation.