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Joe Downtown: ‘Millennial migration’ to Las Vegas predicted

Updated Thursday, March 21, 2013 | 9:20 a.m.

Matt Heller

Matt Heller

Map of The Beat Coffeehouse

The Beat Coffeehouse

520 Fremont Street, Las Vegas

Another day downtown, another interesting character finds his way into The Beat coffeehouse.

But none may have found themselves in as familiar territory as Matt Heller.

See, Heller is considered an expert on millennials, who are also sometimes referred to as the Echo Boom generation or Generation Y. These are young people born sometime from 1980 to 2000. They are distinguished by a need to do something purposeful – or so say blogs, Internet definitions and the like.

Downtown Las Vegas is attractive to millennials. After Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh announced more than two years ago he was moving his headquarters here, an army of young people has taken root downtown via Hsieh’s Downtown Project and numerous relate endeavors. By the end of this year, another 1,300 Zappos employees will be working out of the old City Hall, two blocks from The Beat.

Heller earned his millennial bona fides identifying generational trends for companies and organizations such as Abercrombie & Fitch, Ketel One Vodka, the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles, Adidas and New Line Cinema. He also has created film and television shows for millennials for networks such as VH1, ABC and Lifetime.

Heller believes that beyond Las Vegas, most people have no inkling about what’s going on in downtown Las Vegas.

But he bets they will. And soon.

“This is going to be the 21st-century watering hole for the millennial migration,” Heller said, sitting at the bar of The Beat.

All the elements he believes millennials are drawn to “are happening right here, right now.”

“There’s a deliberate sense of community at the center of everything that’s happening,” Heller says. “These are digital natives and this is a digital environment. Not only that, but millennials seek a true sense of purpose. For a generation to trade in their cars and keep their computers, downtown Las Vegas promises the opportunity to walk more and still collide with other interesting people.”

Finally, Heller says, “if all goes as planned your neighbors will be the kind of people you would have taken a road trip with to get here – similar enough to carry on long conversations but different enough to keep it interesting when no one likes the song on the radio, not that they listen to radio anymore.”

Heller still lives in Los Angeles but is getting a place in The Ogden, which he describes as a sort of embassy “in an emerging green zone surrounded by a war zone that will become the fertile ground from which a millennial community will emerge and thrive.”

Having spent 15 years identifying millennial trends, Heller says he is in the process of writing a book about a generation he finds intrinsically interesting, especially those in Las Vegas.

“There’s something to be said for an East Coast college grad to cross two mountain ranges to figure out what they really want to do, who they are and grow a life that feels uniquely their own,” he says.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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  1. Sounds great. But all these new folks shouldn't just forget those of us who lived downtown before it was cool...we lived there because we had to. Sure a rising tide lifts all boats...as long as "the new millenials" or whatever catchphrase they are today, don't sink us

  2. Interesting because the change in occupants downtown and because of the type of business they are moving here requires many to be from the outside and with that their affect on the culture of the area. I have seen nothing but improvements from this and the established business and entertainment businesses have entered into improving their establishments and still being able to preserve some of the old Vegas charm. I am sure their will be some challenges along the way and not everyone will agree with this generations plans for this area but standing still and not doing anything is a death sentence for the area. I look forward to the next round of changes and still enjoying downtown.

  3. I think there will be a nice mixture of new and old residents in the ever evolving downtown. And it's not to say that the people how have lived there have been forgotten as some might suggest. But rather a look at what the new crowd might have to bring to the mix. With Vegas' economy limping along so much in the last 5 years it's exciting to watch new commerce come in to town.

  4. So, ha, you think that this guy, who lives in LA is doing more than me? I utilize the businesses there daily. Does he? How, when he's in LA? Doubt he shops, or he'd mention that millenials need groceries, and that the only shop within walking distance was bought by the downtwon project. Oh, it's all well and good that Hsieh is trying to do all of these things, but he is treating it like Disneyland, and has made a number of missteps. Already businesses he's championed are leaving. He thought it'd be really cool to evict a bunch of people to make a dorm for his "volunteers". Other than a bunch of pronouncements, what has actually been done by him?

    And how are they "working with us"? Do we have to figure out the "secret" entrance at DCR so we can have an "audience" with Pope Tony? Do we have to pay overpriced coffee prices at the Beat. At least he backed ONE open business, Eat. And it's damned good, too.

    But this knucklehead Joe's interviewing doesn't sound like he brings anything to the table other than some big pronouncements. he's probably a big hit at SXSW. But there's only a certain amount a conglomeration of hipsters can do, only so many Che t-shirts and stocking caps we need. I see he's "taken" a place at the Ogden, which tells me he isn't an owner, so he's got no skin in the game, and when he's wrong he can go to Portland or Vancouver or Eagle Rock.

    Look, Derek Stevens is doing as much, or more, by upgrading Fitzgeralds and the Golden Gate. And he's doing it as a business man, not someone who's playing sociologist/political scientist. (Siegal's done the same futher down Fremont).

    I'm all for improving downtown, but it I like seeing people with skin in the game, like Siegal and Stevens, not people with 501(c)3s and tax abatements.

    As far as what I'm doing, you don't have a freaking clue... you hide behind your made up name, and don't even say what you're doing, if you are even downtown, which I doubt.