Streetshot: Fremont East
As a city best known as an indulgent escape for out-of-towners, it would appear that Las Vegas is the epitome of a tourist trap. There’s a lot more to Sin City, however, than slot machines and poolside cocktails. Downtown Las Vegas offers a completely different experience, and there isn’t a dancing water fountain in sight.
Seven miles north of Caesars Palace and the Bellagio lies the economically depressed area of downtown Las Vegas. Riddled with seedy motels and cheap drink specials, this blighted business hub is in stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of the city’s iconic Strip. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is trying to change all of this by revitalizing the area into a place that creates a sense of community among locals.
Hsieh’s ambitious Downtown Project started in 2012 after he moved his online shoe company’s staff from suburban Henderson, Nevada into the former Las Vegas City Hall. The business leader, who is ultra focused on company culture, wanted to create a campus where his 1,500 employees would want to spend a lot of time before, during, and after work. What followed was a $350 million plan to revive downtown Las Vegas through entrepreneurship and technology.
In the three years since the Downtown Project kicked off, Hsieh’s efforts have been concentrated in the city blocks that make up the Fremont East district. Container Park, a family-friendly outdoor shopping, dining, and entertainment attraction, has made a particularly big splash in transforming the urban landscape. “Vegas isn’t traditionally known as a walking town or city,” Hsieh told NPR. “It’s a very car-based culture, and we wanted to help create a place where you had everything you need to live, work, [and] play within walking distance.” Container Park offers an assortment of small boutiques, galleries, bars, and eateries that surround a central play area for kids, which features a whimsical treehouse and a four-story slide.
Along with Container Park, Hsieh’s DTP Ventures owns or has invested in over 300 small businesses and operations, including a full-scale urban grocery shopping experience, a smattering of cocktail bars and restaurants, a retro hotel, a private school, a toy store, live event spaces, a yoga studio, and even a dog park that boasts the world’s largest functioning fire hydrant. These businesses have spread down Fremont Street and Las Vegas Boulevard toward Neonopolis.
Transforming a downtown community at lightning speed is a huge undertaking, and Hsieh insists he is personally invested in the community. Whether the progress made by the Downtown Project is a temporary or permanent fixture remains to be seen, but for now it’s a welcome and dramatic change to an area that was in dire need of some TLC.