Downtown Las Vegas had its fame and heyday back in the 1950’s and 60’s while the town was still growing. As the bustling town began to turn into a full blown city, by the late 1970’s, Downtown Las Vegas began to lose its luster. Just like in any major city, the downtown area in Las Vegas couldn’t keep up with the rapid growth, and quickly went from the scene to be seen, to lock your car doors, roll up the windows and drive without stopping. Unfortunately, I grew up with the later mentality. Sad, but true.
One of my first jobs back in Las Vegas was working for an advertising agency who represented Mayor Oscar Goodman’s campaign. One of his campaign promises to the City of Las Vegas was to begin revitalizing Downtown. One of my first projects with this agency was to work with the group, based out of California, on researching the facts for their efforts. Funny, at the time, I was low man on the totem pole, and to my boss, this was probably a “busy work” project for me. This was the overall sentiment of the community here- we didn’t think it would work, this revitalizing downtown. So, he threw a project at me to satisfy his client and keep me busy. For me, it was an opportunity to watch history in the making, and be involved in a very, teeny tiny, small way.
Oscar Goodman managed to gain the attention of Zappos.com owner and CEO, Tony Hsieh. Tony already had a lively headquarters where he was running his on-line enterprise, based in Henderson. But, fortunately for us, he loved and embraced the idea of supporting the new growth of Downtown Las Vegas, bought the old city hall, and moved his team and company to the new location. Downtown Las Vegas was already becoming a mecca for local artists with First Fridays and the Arts Factory, but this move provided a major cornerstone in the building of an even stronger foundation for the Downtown Las Vegas community.
As a native, it has been fascinating to watch this transition of an area go from being strictly businesses, government, and folks down on their luck, living on the streets, to one of a thriving, new age utopia. Instead of tearing down buildings and putting up news ones, the Downtown Project is working to re-use the spaces already there. Abandoned motels have become artists colonies. Previous strip mall shops are now trendy eateries, bars and coffee shops. There is plans of one area becoming a community market with its own “living wall” to pick fresh herbs. Hotels that were once thought to have gone to the way-side, like the El Cortez and Gold Spike have become the cool place to stay. The Downtown Container Park is the ultimate venue in providing Hsieh’s dream of where people come to collaborate, collide, and create. People are living here. This downtown community is taking hold, and amazing things are happening for them, and for Las Vegas because of it.
If you are a Las Vegas local and haven’t ventured into the Downtown Las Vegas area, I highly recommend it. Start with a coffee at Chill Spot in the Downtown Container Park where coffee is roasted locally and and the beans are organically grown. Enjoy those first few sips while you window shop the locally owned boutiques and other eateries, or let the kids play in the Treehouse. Then cruise down Fremont Street and check out the changes being made on the daily to the buildings in that area. Artists murals created during the Life is Beautiful festival provide lively street scenes and provoke thought. Want to think like the hipsters? Pop into The Beat coffee house- maybe just in time for the Open Mic or a Vegas Tech open forum. The Historic 5th Street School has all kinds of community events happening at any given time. Lunch at eat. gets packed around 11:30, so be sure to be the first one there at 11. If you really want to see Downtown Las Vegas, then book a Trikke tour. The informative guides will give you a Downtown Las Vegas 101 eduction. Or, stay connected by visiting DowntownProject.com. The passion of the people living and working in Downtown Las Vegas is undeniable, and felt in every aspect of their work to keep making #DTLV a desirable place to just be.
This blog post is apart of the Instagram Travel Thursdays series on SkimbacoLifestyle.com. Enjoy my travels and other fascinating travels from Instagram travel writers from around the world on Instagram using #IGTravelThursday.
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