Neon Eden

[Neon Eden]

Keeping up with Downtown development can be exhausting

The Fashion Lab is a shared space for designers.
Photo: Christopher DeVargas

Downtown Project and Resort Gaming Group recently closed on about seven acres on Fremont and 10th for $7.9 million, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh confirmed this week. The land includes the site of the old Ambassador Hotel, currently a massive empty lot, so whatever Downtown Project decides to do will be an improvement and extend the revitalization of Fremont East. How about a Ferris, excuse me, observation wheel? (Please, no.) Seriously though, some green space — enough to throw around a Frisbee or a football — would be nice.

The pace of change Downtown continues to be dizzying, especially if you consider the still mostly moribund economy in the rest of the Las Vegas Valley. So much has happened in recent months that I decided to round up some of the most important developments:

• Zappos workers have begun their migration Downtown, starting with 200 workers in merchandising, at 302 Carson Ave. You can’t tell just by looking at it, but inside the old city hall—which will be Zappos’ main headquarters next year—construction has begun in earnest.

• Fashion Lab opened on Las Vegas Boulevard. It’s a fashion “coworking” entity, meaning fashion designers will work independently but share space. This seems ripe for a reality show.

• The Gay and Lesbian Community Center of Southern Nevada started renovations on its new facility, the Robert L. Forbuss Building, at 401 S. Maryland Pkwy. It opens in December.

• Construction is also under way on Krave Massive at Neonopolis, slated to be the largest gay nightclub in the world. It opens in three phases beginning in December.

• Art Square, a mix of creative and professional space, opened at 1025 S. First St. Last month, it welcomed Cockroach Theatre, which performed Nurture. Cockroach’s season opens October 26 with The Mineola Twins, a Paula Vogel comedy.

• Inspire! Las Vegas held an event the last weekend in September. These are like TED talks — brief, enlightening, often funny — but specifically for Las Vegas. They’re set to move to a permanent home in the performance space at Fremont and Las Vegas Boulevard.

• The Vegas Vernacular Project continues to document the city’s famous signs — neon, illuminated and hand-painted — via photographs and oral history. As the website puts it, these signs “helped shape our emotional relationship and experience of the city.” On a related note, the Neon Museum opens this month.

• This was a while ago, but worth mentioning: We had two Las Vegas Startup Weekends during the summer. This is when a bunch of entrepreneurs and investors get together for a contest to see who can present the best startup idea. The June winner, ClippPR, which will track media mentions in real time, was from San Francisco but received help from locals, so the unlikely Bay Area-Vegas ties get stronger. Last week, the Kauffman Foundation and Startup Weekend named Vegas one of eight cities they’ll work with to nurture startup culture.

• Builders broke ground on the new U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement building. And construction nears completion on the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada on 8th and Charleston.

• Chef Natalie Young’s Eat opened at 707 Carson St., filling a badly needed niche: comfort breakfast and lunch fare. She’s a partner with Downtown Project.

• The national media continues to swarm. USA Today was the latest to take its turn last month, touting Downtown Project and Hsieh, with a guest appearance by Downtown Cocktail Room’s Michael Cornthwaite. I’m reliably told two national magazines will do their own versions this fall.

Coming up October 13 is Rediscover Downtown Day, where many museums, bars and restaurants will offer good deals to entice locals Downtown. This seems like we’re trying a little too hard—why do I feel like Cleveland has something similar? But, hey, every little bit helps.

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J. Patrick Coolican

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