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October 20, 2014

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Joe Downtown: 5 ways Zappos is reshaping downtown Las Vegas

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Leila Navidi

Zappos employees walk from Zappos’ temporary offices on Carson Avenue to the parking garage on Stewart Avenue in downtown Las Vegas on Wednesday, Sept. 26, 2012.

Zappos Opening Ceremony Downtown

Zappos employee Ana Santiago catches confetti during the grand opening ceremony for the Zappos headquarters in the old city hall building downtown Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. According to RecordSetter, a record was set for the largest number of people (1,577 people) to cut a grand opening ribbon at the same time. Launch slideshow »

Zappos Downtown Tour

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh looks out a window from the Monkey Room where he has his office at the new Zappos headquarters in the old city hall building downtown Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. The downtown headquarters officially opened Monday. Launch slideshow »

Zappos employees will take six weeks to completely move into the company’s new downtown headquarters, the former City Hall the company has spent millions of dollars renovating.

Some 200 employees who already worked downtown, in a building at 3rd Street and Bridger Avenue, moved in over the weekend, said Zach Ware of Zappos. The remaining 1,300 or so will fill the building over the next six weeks.

With the influx of employees — for nine years they have worked in Henderson in an office complex at Green Valley Parkway and the 215 Beltway — downtown Las Vegas is going to be seeing and feeling quite a bit of change.

Even early this morning, The Beat coffeehouse at 6th and Fremont streets was full of new faces, some of them Zappos workers.

That is only the beginning.

A 3 p.m. ribbon-cutting ceremony at the headquarters today heralds the start of a new look downtown. Everyone has an opinion about whether that look will add a shine or cause headaches if the city isn’t ready for it. Here’s our take:

    • Business

      While Zappos has top-notch on-site benefits for its employees, including a fairly lavish cafe and drinks if you want them, workers are bound to want to see “what’s out there” once in a while for lunch or happy hour.

      So expect downtown bars and restaurants to see a boost in business.

      Of course, downtown carries a decades-old stigma as an unsavory place. The city’s efforts to stimulate the downtown economy over the years have come in fits and starts. Only Zappos’ announced move and the creation of the Downtown Project redevelopment agency, whose partners include Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, has so far brought significant change.

      We’ll see soon enough if those redevelopment efforts will be enough to overcome downtown’s reputation.

    • Traffic

      Zappos is bringing in 1,500 employees. Downtown Grand, formerly the Lady Luck, will have another 800 over the next two months.

      Both businesses operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week, so those employees’ commutes will come in waves. And few live downtown — the fact is, there isn’t a lot of residential housing for them to occupy.

      So will we see gridlock downtown?

      The city’s line has been, no problem: Downtown already handles thousands of state, county and city workers, so no one foresees much of an issue.

      Downtown Project, meanwhile, is working on a multi-modal traffic system — bicycles, electric cars and more — which has the promise of alleviating the need for a car. A test version of the system will be online next year.

      In addition, an enormous and enormously expensive highway project known as Project Neon — estimates are $1.3 billion to $1.8 billion — is supposed to make travel to and from the area easier. Some of the project involves the creation of improved on- and off-ramps at Charleston Boulevard.

      But with owners of property targeted to be taken by eminent domain fighting for every penny they can eke from the state, the project’s true costs could go higher. Plus, it will take years to complete, so don’t look there for traffic help any time soon.

    • Crime

      Drawing more people downtown could have one of two effects on crime.

      More people could lure criminals looking for a quick score. The more popular theory is that more people in an area acts like a spotlight shining on an area that criminals want to avoid.

    • Police

      There’s no question the popularity of downtown has resulted in more attention by Metro Police. Most Friday nights, when the dozen or so bars and bar/restaurants in about the first block of Fremont East are serving hundreds of people, Metro is there in force.

      Opinions vary about whether that’s good or bad.

      Some feel the police are too heavy-handed in dealing with minor offenses, such as jaywalking and open containers.

      Others say they’d rather have a strong police presence, which could prevent a more serious or violent offense.

    • Goofiness

      Last week, a handful of men and women walked into The Beat wearing costumes of varying inanity.

      One looked like she was Pippy Longstocking. The others were a mishmash of odd hats and clothing. They were new Zappos hires completing a scavenger hunt, which got them acquainted with the downtown area.

      Zappos seems to have a penchant for figuring out ways to make work fun — you should see their elevators, which have video game screens inside.

      This summer, it had a monthly llama parade to Cashman Field for 51s games. On Halloween, Zappos blacked out the windows of their Henderson office to create a creepy office interior.

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