Barely 10 steps beyond the door of Zappos’ Downtown Project office, Krissee Danger walks past a man who asks for a spare cigarette as she pulls one out of her purse. “This is my last one,” she says. Would she have given one if she had more? “No.” A block farther, a homeless man, burnished and brown from sun and dirt, has his blackened brown shorts unbuttoned and open.
Like the rest of the country, Las Vegas is taking full advantage of the nation’s thirst for the undead, monsters and hacked body parts drenched in fake blood, the bounty that comes with lavish indulgence in the Halloween season. In 2011, estimates put the national take from the Halloween business around $6 billion. Customers buy costumes, makeup and hanging skeletons and monsters like a starving man devours food. Then there are the haunted houses.
The economic revival sweeping downtown Las Vegas has ushered into the area restaurants, bars, entrepreneurs and residents. High-rise towers are filling up with renters and ground-floor tenants. Bars are taking over vacant buildings. New restaurant ideas are being hatched, and tech startups might soon outnumber casinos. Much of the activity is centered around Zappos, the online shoe and clothing retailer moving downtown from Henderson late next year and bringing with it hundreds of young, well-heeled employees.
Stretches of Las Vegas streets totalling some 883 acres were designated today as a new redevelopment area with hopes that the kind of economic renaissance happening in downtown’s redevelopment area will be duplicated.
As a journalist, my job is to be skeptical, and given the incessant flimflammery in Las Vegas, I think I was entitled to be extra wary of the Tony Hsieh-Zappos-downtown craze. My outlook is deeply influenced by the “Simpsons” episode when the charismatic charlatan Lyle Lanley sells Springfield a rickety monorail (sound familiar?), so I always try to question what’s in that delicious Kool-Aid. For years I’ve been reading glowing profiles of Hsieh, the prodigy founder of an Internet company he sold to Microsoft for millions before becoming CEO of online retailer Zappos.
By now all of Las Vegas knows that Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos, is intensely interested and invested in downtown. He is moving his company there. He’s using a chunk of his fortune to help transform the urban core.
Big-box stores, the elephants of the suburban retail savanna, face growing threats to their survival. The evolution of technology, combined with society’s growing comfort with buying online, are taking their toll.
Zappos’ efforts to remake downtown Las Vegas take another step forward with a real estate deal and plan to lure more young talent to the area. The Downtown Project will announce today a partnership with Venture for America to bring new college graduates to assist startup businesses.
With some calling the vote "historic," the Las Vegas City Council today unanimously approved the final deal to relocate Zappos to downtown. "This was a huge effort," Mayor Carolyn Goodman said of the complex financial transaction involving about eight acres of city property.