If you’re looking for physical evidence of the capitalist-hipster culture that’s been imported to downtown Las Vegas, look no further than Container Park.
The striking shopping center at Fremont and 7th streets is built from dozens of large, steel cubes, including nearly 40 re-purposed shipping containers.
The entrance on Fremont is marked by a giant, metal, flame-spewing praying mantis and a dome-shaped theater in front of a plaza surrounded by the stacked, steel cubes and containers that will house stores, restaurants and bars.
Scheduled to open as early as next month with more than 30 businesses, most of them owner-operated, Container Park is the physical manifestation of the Downtown Project’s promise to revive downtown Las Vegas through art, fashion, business and real estate development.
Funded largely through the personal wealth of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, the Downtown Project is a $350 million vehicle that’s backing the project along with dozens of other ventures downtown.
“What Tony Hsieh’s original dream was for this to be an incubator of small businesses,” Doug McPhail said.
A recent tour of Container Park revealed a project with many of the trappings of a typical, upscale shopping center but with details and amenities that make it unique for Las Vegas and maybe even the country.
It has a north-south orientation between Fremont Street and Carson Avenue with shipping containers and manufactured steel cubes stacked three-high to the east and west.
The cubes and containers provide space for dozens of businesses that surround a central plaza with an interactive playground and concert venue.
Workers are installing trees and a shade canopy to make the plaza usable even in summer months and the construction style means businesses will need to be economical with space. At the southern end is a railroad caboose that’s being retrofitted to house a trendy barbershop.
“Right off the bat you know something is different, something is special about this project because of the architecture and the way it looks and feels,” said Bill Hinchliff of ConGlobal Industries of Los Angeles, which provided the shipping containers.
Hinchliff said he’s sold thousands of containers for everything from schools to Starbucks outlets and the Container Park downtown is unique among projects he’s worked on.
“There are no other projects with that much square footage, food and beverage, retail, bridges, dining, entertainment,” Hinchliff said. “It is the ultimate combination of resources and activities used in containers in the United States.”
The Container Park also has several shipping containers standing on end, which Hinchliff said is unique for container style projects.
While the Container Park is the signature real estate development of the Downtown Project so far, the tenants moving in won’t be household names.
McPhail said the operators aren’t looking for chain stores that can be found anywhere. They want galleries, restaurants and boutique shops unique to downtown Las Vegas.
Among the tenants is Gina Quaranto, owner of Blackbird Studios in the Arts District. Quaranto said she’s hopeful a second space in Container Park will bring much needed attention to locally produced art.
Unlike the arts district, which receives little foot traffic except during monthly First Friday events, the Container Park is located just a block from a resurgent area of local businesses and two blocks from the massive Fremont Street Experience, which hosts millions of visitors annually.
“I’m excited because it think this will open up a whole new viewing audience who not only don’t know us but anybody in the arts district,” Quaranto said.
McPhail said the plan is to open in mid-November and he expects the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and until 1 a.m. on weekends.
Contact Benjamin Spillman at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at @BenSpillman702