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FN Spy the Magazine: Transforming Old Las Vegas

Zappos.com execs Tony Hsieh and Fred Mossler show off their redevelopment initiative.

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The Ogden Apartment Building

Photo By courtesy of Downtown Project

Inside Eat restaurant

Photo By courtesy of Downtown Project

A second theater is in development in the Ogden Apartment building, where Hsieh, Mossler and several other Zappos and Downtown Project executives live. It is tentatively called The Ogden Theatre. “That will be a smaller version of the Inspire Theatre,” Hsieh said. “We want to have multiple speaking facilities because we have so many people coming through. And at night, we can [use the space for] small bands to perform or show independent movies.”

A private school — called 9th Bridge — is also in the works and is slated to debut in August. “We’re building an early childhood center [for] ages 6 weeks to kindergarten,” said Connie Yeh, head of Downtown Project’s $50 million education fund. “We will have infant, toddler and mixed-aged, pre-K/kindergarten classes.”

Each year, grades will be added until the school becomes a full K-12 institution. “We want to teach kids about creativity and entrepreneurship as well as [traditional schoolwork],” Hsieh said.

In addition, a medical center is expected to open later this year, and Hsieh said it could have big implications not only for local residents but for the medical community as a whole. “It’s going to change the whole health care model,” he said. “It’s a model focused on wellness as well as health.”

The Downtown Project also has invested in and relocated 15 tech firms to the area. Among the newcomers are Romotive, a company that builds robots that can be controlled by smartphones, and Ecomom, an e-tailer specializing in kid-friendly products.

In all, Steven Hill, Zappos’ VP of merchandising, who serves as a liaison between Zappos and the Downtown Project, said the various tech companies that have relocated to downtown employ about 100 people, adding to the creative environment of the area.

And this October, the city will see the debut of a 15-block music and culinary arts festival called “Life Is Beautiful.”

“We’re basically fencing off 15 blocks, which has never really been done before in any city,” Hsieh said.

“It will be a great thing for the community,” Mossler added. “It will be a music, culinary, speaker and fashion festival — all in downtown Las Vegas and all happening simultaneously.”

Also in the pipeline are several new restaurants, a film production studio and shared car and bike programs, plus more.

Hsieh said he’s now completed the first year of a five-year development plan for the neighborhood. After that, he anticipates the area will continue to develop, but will take on a life of its own. “In five years, this will be a very, very different place where people will turn around and wonder, ‘What just happened?’”


5 Downtown Hot Stops
While there is a lot to see and do in downtown Las Vegas, project architects Tony Hsieh and Fred Mossler had some advice for show attendees wishing to view the work in progress. “The best reason to visit downtown during FN Platform is so you’ll be able to see the contrast between this show and the next,” Mossler said. “There will be so much change over the next six months. It’s definitely worth spending some time on Fremont East and getting a feel for it, and then coming back. You’re going to see a dramatic difference.” Below, the execs offer up the must-see attractions in downtown.

1. The Downtown Project Tour
Downtownproject.com
“You definitely need a tour for the context,” Hsieh said. “I would recommend doing it first and then wandering around after because you need to know where to look in order to be able to appreciate everything.”

2. Eat
707 Carson St.
“The most common reaction we have is, ‘I can’t believe this is in Vegas because it’s not at all what you would expect,’ said Hsieh. “There is a really good energy about [the restaurant].”

3. Stitch Factory
300 N. Las Vegas Blvd., Suite 120
“They’re putting on a fashion show on Feb. 20 for emerging designers and there will be a VIP area where designers can talk, and there will be an after-party,” Mossler said.

4. Romotive
The Ogden, 150 N. Las Vegas Blvd.
 “You can see the [tech startup’s] offices and factory — it’s all in the Ogden Apartment building. And you can play around with [the] robots [they produce],” Hsieh said.

5. Coterie
515 E. Fremont St.
“It’s an old check-cashing place that got converted into almost a speakeasy-type of secret boutique clothing store,” Hsieh said.

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