Five Years Later: Zappos Founder's Downtown Las Vegas Project

Tony Hsieh laid out a grand ambition two create a more dynamic downtown in Las Vegas that would change cities all over the world. Now, after a series of setbacks and with dwindling funds, that vision seems unlikely to be realized.

1 minute read

January 11, 2017, 1:00 PM PST

By Casey Brazeal @northandclark

Downtown Project

Tech.Co / Flickr

Tony Hsieh's favorite metaphor for his ambitions in Las Vegas was the four-minute mile. The achievement of breaking the four-minute mile set off a chain reaction: after that time barrier fell, athletes all around the world were able to repeat the feat. Hsieh hoped the work he did for downtown Las Vegas would produce similar results. Hsieh, who had great success as the founder of online shoe seller, Zappos, was eager to take lessons learned there and use them to transform Las Vegas through a private venture called The Downtown Project.

Now five years since the project's start, there have been more setbacks than milestones. "While Downtown Project certainly has notable successes—like Natalie Young’s Eat, and the late Kerry Simon’s Carson Kitchen—they stand out as outliers amidst the 50-some small businesses created and 100 or so tech companies invested in since 2011," writes Aimee Groth in Quartz. The project faced waves of layoffs and shrinking ambitions. "DTP is now being run more like a traditional urban planning project, with a focus on real estate and paring down its investments to focus on money-making operations. In Las Vegas, that means bars," Groth reports.

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