Joe Downtown

Joe Downtown: Following up on recent columns

A view of the East Fremont entertainment district as seen from the walkway between the Neonopolis mall and the Fremont parking garage in downtown Las Vegas Wednesday, August 1, 2012.
Photo: Steve Marcus

It’s time to update some of the stories written here and in the Las Vegas Sun over the past few months. Downtown is a whirlwind of activity; consider this a moment to take a breath and take stock.

The Sorceress

(Las Vegas Weekly, January 24)

Sarah Nisperos was nicknamed “The Sorceress” for her uncanny ability to tell people who they really are. Nisperos is co-owner of Coterie, a clothing store on Fremont Street in partnership with the Downtown Project, but she’s not a psychic.

Nisperos chuckles while discussing the handful of people who have visited her since the column ran with the thought that she has some soothsaying abilities.

“I don’t,” she says.

She just has a finely honed sense of intuition, and people seem to open up to her, correctly sensing she is a “people person.”

Nisperos also doesn’t have a direct pipeline to Zappos CEO and Downtown Project partner Tony Hsieh, she adds. People who have ideas they think the Downtown Project might have interest in should contact the Project directly.

City of Las Vegas Four-Day Workweek

(Las Vegas Weekly, February 7)

A few weeks ago I wrote about some business people unhappy that, with so much going on Downtown, the city’s four-day workweeks have become something of a bottleneck to the work flow. Work happens five days a week, but the city shuts down after four.

Not only that, but because it’s almost innate human behavior to take it easy on Fridays, that’s now happening on Thursdays. Translation: Downtowners say if they don’t get together with city workers by Wednesday, they won’t get approvals or other work done until the following week. (A caveat: The city has shifted many services to its website, negating the need for face-to-face interaction with city employees; staff can be available, too, if scheduled beforehand. By rule, however, government websites are notoriously difficult to navigate, and the city’s is no exception.)

The column suggested that the city talk to developers, find out which staff are needed daily, then have some of those people work on Fridays. Via email, Bill Arent, Las Vegas economic and urban development director, said he would “put some thought into the demand for Friday meetings and where we could staff at a consistent location on Fridays.”

He suggested that the Downtown Project’s coworking spaces or the Fifth Street School could be potential locations.

Founders Anonymous

(Las Vegas Weekly, February 13)

A column about Matthias Galica stirred a lot of reaction in L.A., where he lives.

Galica was in Las Vegas visiting the haunts of his mentor and friend Jody Sherman, the co-founder of Ecomom who took his own life in January.

Galica talked about the pressures facing startup founders and how he wanted to create a group that would lend moral support and advice to those in a field where some 75 percent are expected to fail. Galica said founders feel pressured to put on a happy face all the time, despite the high failure rate.

Last week, Galica held a roundtable in L.A. to talk about those pressures and what can be done about it. In an email, he said that even before the roundtable, he had received dozens of messages from others in the L.A. area interested in forming a support group.

Room Taxes

(Las Vegas Sun, February 19)

Downtown reaction to a city plan to extend a hotel room tax another 25 years can be summed up in one word: anger.

The tax was imposed in the mid-1990s to pay off bonds to build the Fremont Street Experience. It has added 2 percent of a room’s cost to the bill for hotels within the Fremont Street Experience and 1 percent for other hotels.

Set to expire in 2015, the tax raises about $1.4 million annually; the city wanted to extend it to 2040.

Why? That’s the part that angered Downtown hotel owners. The Fremont Street Experience bill would be paid off, and the city outlined no specific purpose for extending the tax. Arent did talk generally about possible expenses, such as connecting the Experience to the growing Fremont East Entertainment District, building green space and other ideas.

This time, it seems the city listened to its critics. It dropped the tax from its redevelopment bill now going through the Legislature.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover Downtown, he lives and works there. He is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded Downtown journalist, stationed at an office in Emergency Arts. His work appears in the Las Vegas Sun and Las Vegas Weekly.
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