The resurgence of downtown Las Vegas can be traced to some major milestones over the past decade. The opening of the World Market Center, the Las Vegas Premium Outlets, the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health and The Smith Center for the Performing Arts transformed the west side of downtown.
Across the railroad tracks, the “old” downtown has taken less dramatic but equally important steps. New office space. New nightclubs. New county and federal courthouses. Tech start-ups. New small businesses and a growing arts community.
But the biggest moment came this week, when online retailer Zappos officially opened its new headquarters in the old, renovated City Hall. The first wave of 200 workers moved in Monday. Within a few weeks, as many as 2,000 workers will shift downtown from Zappos’ old Henderson office.
The addition of a couple of thousand professional, private-sector jobs — jobs not tied to the gaming industry — should lift the bottom lines of downtown shops and eateries, spur even more investment in the area and lift the city’s corporate profile. And because of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s commitment to reinventing downtown as a place to live as well as work, his workforce should increase demand for housing as well. Mr. Hsieh has a sizable personal stake in the $350 million Downtown Project, which pushes urban renewal.
Taxpayers certainly have a stake in the Zappos move and its resulting benefits. The public is on the hook for a new $146 million City Hall because former Mayor Oscar Goodman envisioned another entity taking over the old government headquarters and providing a shot of adrenaline to redevelopment. The new City Hall, south of the Zappos building off Main Street, has yet to spur much investment in the area surrounding it.
Zappos and parent company Amazon spent $60 million renovating the old City Hall, which was in lousy shape to host an Internet business. Zappos leases it from new building owner Resort Gaming Group, which bought it for $3 million at closing and annual interest-only payments of $600,000 from 2014 through 2028. The annual payment grows to $1.4 million from 2029 through 2043, meaning taxpayers will get $34 million in interest and principal for the property.
Will this be a good deal for the public and downtown? Time will tell. But based on how the area has changed for the better in recent years, it appears the Zappos move will be another winner for downtown.