Tony Hsieh wowed the crowd at the FN CEO Summit on Tuesday night as he spelled out his vision for downtown Las Vegas over the next few years.
The almost-abandoned section of the town has become an area of focus for the Zappos.com CEO, who has helped develop a revitalization plan that includes a hefty $350 million investment in residential and commercial real estate, tech startups and community programs.
The goal, Hsieh explained, is to create a neighborhood that is walkable and community-focused. The Downtown Project is even investing in individuals, helping them realize their dreams of starting small businesses. “We are thinking of the city as a startup,” he said. “We want it to be the anti-Strip — with bars and coffee shops.”
As Zappos preps to move into Las Vegas’ former City Hall, the focus is on creating a community-centric locale, where people live, work and play. “We want to create more collision points [for people],” Hsieh said. “We are even shutting down the sky bridge between the parking garage and [the new Zappos] building so people will have to go down to the street to get in to work.”
To that end, plans for downtown Las Vegas also call for communal spaces for sewing, performance and several retail businesses. Bike and car sharing is in the works, as well as a “shipping container park” for kids that will feature live music set to open this fall. Also this fall, a speakers’ theater will debut to host Ted Talk-like events.
Hsieh said that by creating a hybrid between a city and company headquarters he hopes it will also drive productivity. More collision points means more opportunities to share ideas and inspire each other, he said. “What we want people to say about downtown Vegas is that it will make you smarter, which is about the last thing you might usually say about Vegas,” quipped Hsieh. “If we can make downtown Vegas a place of passion and inspiration, that’s our [greatest goal].”
Hsieh’s Downtown Project by the numbers:
$50 million investment in small businesses
$50 million investment in tech startups
$50 million investment in education, arts and culture
$200 million in real estate