Help us raise $20,000 to celebrate 20 years. For a limited time, your donation is matched!Donate

Las Vegas Makeover Falls Short on Five-Year Plan

The Downtown Project is low on cash and successes. 

A visitor snaps a photo of a mural in downtown Las Vegas. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

This is your first of three free stories this month. Become a free or sustaining member to read unlimited articles, webinars and ebooks.

Become A Member

Five years after Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh set out on a $350 million venture (with his own money) to remake downtown Las Vegas (with a lot of five-year goals), the city center is still far from an urbanist dream, Quartz reports.

Hsieh’s vision to spark revitalization outside the Strip — which he dubbed the Downtown Project — was centered around moving his online shoe retailer’s headquarters into the city’s downtown district. Hsieh aimed to create the most “community-focused large city in the world,” but Quartz’s Aimee Groth writes that a crucial missing piece has been involving locals, and that “applying the same principles used to grow a startup into a 1,500-person company don’t translate perfectly into the walls of a city.” Read the piece, timed naturally at this fifth anniversary, here.

A few months after the project’s launch in 2012, Next City contributor Daniel Brook anticipated that the project would struggle if it failed to engage the community’s longest-term, most marginalized residents. “Hsieh’s community-oriented selflessness seems genuine,” Brook wrote. “The more salient worry is cluelessness. Hsieh’s tremendous wealth hasn’t made him greedy, just out of touch with the tribulations of his downtown neighbors, who house themselves week-to-week.”

The Downtown Project is still alive, but is focusing more on operations that can turn a profit, which mainly means bars. Other than that the project hopes to reach sustainability by 2018, Hsieh and the other Downtown Project leaders haven’t said much about the future. Hsieh instead is focusing on successes like a popular outdoor Container Park. To see kids and families walking around in a place that was previously pretty dangerous, that’s progress,” Hsieh said in August, “and [I’m] pretty happy about that.”

Like what you’re reading? Get a browser notification whenever we post a new story. You’re signed-up for browser notifications of new stories. No longer want to be notified? Unsubscribe.

Kelsey E. Thomas is a writer and editor based in the most upper-left corner of the country. She writes about urban policy, equitable development and the outdoors (but also about nearly everything else) with a focus on solutions-oriented journalism. She is a former associate editor and current contributing editor at Next City.

Follow Kelsey

Tags: downtown revitalizationlas vegas

Next City App Never Miss A StoryDownload our app ×

You've reached your monthly limit of three free stories.

This is not a paywall. Become a free or sustaining member to continue reading.

  • Read unlimited stories each month
  • Our email newsletter
  • Webinars and ebooks in one click
  • Our Solutions of the Year magazine
  • Support solutions journalism and preserve access to all readers who work to liberate cities

Join 1011 other sustainers such as:

  • Anonymous at $25/Year
  • Shara in Hutchinson, KS at $10/Month
  • Kristin in Rockaway Beach, OR at $30/Year

Already a member? Log in here. U.S. donations are tax-deductible minus the value of thank-you gifts. Questions? Learn more about our membership options.

or pay by credit card:

All members are automatically signed-up to our email newsletter. You can unsubscribe with one-click at any time.

  • Donate $20 or $5/Month

    20th Anniversary Solutions of the Year magazine