A project that would use recycled shipping containers and steel cubes for everything from fashion studios to restaurants won approval from the Las Vegas City Council on Wednesday.
The council voted unanimously in favor of three items related to the project, which is backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh's Downtown Project, despite a staff recommendation to deny the proposal.
The project, along Fremont at Seventh Street, would use containers and containerlike cubes built downtown to create a development aimed at drawing more people to a formerly forlorn block.
Backers say the Container Park project will cost about $15 million to $20 million to develop, including land costs, and will be a defining feature of their attempt to revive the area.
The project could open late in the second quarter next year.
"This project will be talked about more than almost any project downtown for the next two or three years," said Andrew Donner, who coordinates real estate deals for the Downtown Project.
According to planning documents, the project will stretch the entire block between Fremont Street and Carson Avenue with some spots as high as three stories.
The centerpiece will be a large children's play area with climbing wall, sand play area and water features. It will include a large spherical theater similar to a planetarium and a large, fire-shooting sculpture of a praying mantis that was once used for the Burning Man countercultural festival in Northern Nevada.
The most striking aspect of the project, though, is the construction style that stacks containers and cubes, a building style that's taken hold in parts of New York, San Francisco and Seattle.
"We think this is a fantastic project," said Arnold Stalk, a Las Vegas developer who has worked with containers for years but is not part of the Downtown Project. "It takes shipping container technology and blends it with several other technologies."
Others were less thrilled with the proposal.
Sam Zeer, who owns a convenience store on Fremont Street, objected to exempting the developers from a requirement to provide an additional 250 parking spaces to accommodate the development.
Zeer said activity from Downtown Project-supported businesses in the area is making it harder for his customers, who he said include cabdrivers and senior citizens, to pop into the store for quick purchases.
"There is a huge problem presently in parking in downtown in that area," Zeer said. "Every parking spot that is there right now has been spoken for."
The staff report from the city Planning Department had its own list of criticisms for the proposal with its recommendation to deny the project.
The report recommended denial on the developers' plans to apply for a tavern license for the site, citing a play area for children, an inward-facing design and a lack of traditional roof lines and cornices.
Council members, however, weren't swayed by the staff report.
On Tuesday, before the vote, Councilman Ricki Barlow, whose Ward 5 includes the project site, and Councilman Bob Coffin, whose Ward 3 probably will include the site after redistricting is complete, both said they supported the project.
Coffin said the inward-facing design is understandable for the time being, given the blighted history of the area. Developers said that as it improves, the fences could be taken down.
"Let's face it, until something more happens around the outside of the building, it is still pretty bombed-out," Coffin said. "So I can understand why they don't want to face out."
Barlow said there is precedent for balancing children's areas with alcohol service for adults, as casinos are regularly built with movie theaters, bowling alleys and other family oriented amenities.
"Welcome to Las Vegas," Barlow said. "Movie theaters and gaming."
Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@ reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0285 .