On February 5, Weekly editor Sarah Feldberg mused about why it has been so hard to join the party Downtown. An excerpt:
What I see is a lack of information and a lack of urgency. I see the shiny new Inspire Theater with no event calendar on its website (although one is supposedly in the works). I see outdated listings on the Downtown Project’s Community & Events page (which makes it sorta hard for the community to participate in events). I see an organization so full of friendly, social people that it sometimes forgets about all friendly, social people who don’t live and work within a five-block radius. And that’s a shame. Because I’m not the only one missing out on the party Downtown. And that means Downtown is missing out on us.
In the comment thread, someone named geomon assured Sarah that “a new app, specifically built to highlight all the happenings downtown,” was in its final phase. Two months later, an app appeared. Called Downtown Project, it’s free in the iTunes App Store (an Android version is in the works) and offers information about neighborhood events and venues, as well as a news feed and features allowing users to tag and share favorite happenings and submit their own.
Check it out for yourself, but here’s what I found in a five-minute whirlwind.
The landing page has four main tabs: Events, Venues, Faves, News. Events are the bread and butter of the app, and the mix is pretty diverse, ranging from Downtown Trivia and Tech Cocktail to art classes and music shows. Click on Yoga for Rookies, and you get details on the class, a map to the venue and the option of sharing your interest on social media. If you “heart” the event it will be added to your Faves. At the moment, shows at Container Park appear not to have artist details beyond genre, so if you don’t already know who Tony Tone is you might not be compelled to go. I’m hoping as the app develops, richer details will populate the listings. In this glance, my best discovery was that Zappos is springing for coffee and pastries at Bronze Café on Tax Day (free buttery sweetness, people).
The venues tab lists mixed-use complexes like Juhl and the Ogden, lively areas like Fremont East and the Arts District, and stand-alone spots like the UNLV Startup Center and the Beat. It doesn’t cover every venue in the neighborhood, but it’s a start. Turntable Health (a “membership-based primary care and wellness ecosystem”) wins the prize for churning out calendar content—everything from movie nights to power yoga.
The news feed pulls from Downtown Project’s parent site, mixing stories and profiles from the blog and harder news updates. I learned that Drew Cohen of the Writer’s Block prefers the Stones to The Beatles, read about the birth of Banger Brewing and plans for the Bunkhouse, and got details for Creativ Week and Restaurant Week and the Made in Downtown fashion contest.
A DTP representative said some user-submitted events have already come through to be vetted, and that within the first 24 hours of going live on April 6, the app had nearly 400 downloads.
The clean aesthetic and simple navigation make it easy to like, though the experience would be richer with more venues and more details once you’ve clicked (a review in the App Store is very positive but mentions finding tidbits of outdated data and a mismatched image). Thumbnails seem slow to load, which is kind of a drag but doesn't detract from the app's main function—to help users feel more connected to the Downtown scene. Critics might say the entire scene is not represented, but when the app is actually called Downtown Project, it's hard to fault the content for being focused there.
P.S. The app icon is a llama. Even if you don’t know or don’t care about the lore behind DTP’s llama obsession, it will look extra-cute on your phone.