The news in Paradise/downtown in 2013 was dominated by Tony Hsieh and his projects. While the entrepreneur had a hand in downtown redevelopment previously, much of his work came to fruition over the past year.
This isn’t to say the rest of the town sat back and watched. It’s been a busy year here, and prognosticators looking for signs of the valley’s recovery may use Paradise/downtown as an example.
ZAPPOS MOVES DOWNTOWN
On Sept. 9, in a ceremony marked by carnival games, a record-breaking ribbon-cutting ceremony and the appearance of a live llama, Zappos moved into the former Las Vegas City Hall, 400 Stewart Ave.
The new offices include a bistro, video games in the elevators and a flexible office arrangement for the company’s staff of approximately 2,000. The move was an indication of Zappos CEO Hsieh’s commitment to reinventing downtown, which included the purchase and transformation of several properties.
GOLD SPIKE CLOSES
One notable change brought about by Hsieh’s vision was the closure of the Gold Spike. The property has since reopened with a restaurant and bar. The rooms are rented by Zappos employees by the month, leading to it being referred to colloquially as The Zappos Dorms. The largest and most surprising change to a city built on gaming is the removal of gambling from the Gold Spike. In its place is the Living Room, a space equipped with Wi-Fi, a pool, shuffleboard and cornhole, a game in which beanbags are thrown into holes in a board.
DOWNTOWN CONTAINER PARK OPENS
Downtown Container Park, a new concept in retail space for the valley, opened Nov. 29. The space combines a park and playground surrounded by dining and retail space, all within repurposed shipping containers.
Those containers are filled mostly with boutique shopping, a large amount locally owned and operated. An outdoor stage dominates the south end of the complex, and in the short time the location has been open, it has hosted a significant amount of live entertainment.
The Downtown Project, the private redevelopment agency led by Hsieh, created Container Park. Thus far, the agency has focused its efforts on projects within walking distance of the Fremont East Entertainment District and Zappos.
CHILDREN’S MUSEUM MOVES TO THE SMITH CENTER
On March 9, the Discovery Children’s Museum opened at its new location at 360 Promenade Place. The new site is more than twice the size of its previous home next to the Las Vegas Library, 833 Las Vegas Blvd. North. It has 5,000 squre feet allocated for traveling exhibits.
The move created another attraction for Symphony Park, on the tract of land that was once a railroad switch yard and is still separated from much of the downtown attraction by the remaining tracks. A footbridge connects it to the new Las Vegas City Hall parking structure.
HUNTRIDGE THEATRE PRESERVATION EFFORTS GO ONLINE
In just more than a year, efforts to preserve the historic Huntridge Theatre have gone from vague hopes to action on multiple proactive fronts.
The Huntridge Foundation was created last year with the mission to preserve the architectural integrity, history and culture of the Huntridge Performing Arts Theatre and the surrounding community. The group is still working on the lengthy process of filing for nonprofit status.
This year, the Huntridge Revival LLC was formed by investors Michael Cornthwaite, Joey Vanas and Rehan Choudhry. In June, it launched a 45-day Indegogo fundraising campaign, hoping to raise $150,000, 1 percent of the estimated $15 million required to purchase and renovate the building. The campaign exceeded its goal, raising $207,355.
“I’d call it a very successful campaign,” Cornthwaite said.
LORENZI PARK REOPENS
Lorenzi Park, 3333 W. Washington Ave., one of the largest parks in the Paradise/downtown area, reopened Aug. 17 after a $30 million renovation. The property was originally developed as a vineyard in 1912. The city acquired it in 1965, and the recent renovations began in 2009. Funding was provided by the Bureau of Land Management’s Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act.
Some of the renovations were simply bolstering up the infrastructure, such as new stonework on the park’s lake shore and restoring and widening the sidewalks. Other changes were more obvious, including the addition of an island bandstand, new restrooms, picnic areas, historical markers and a new water play area.
The park also includes Sammy Davis Jr. Festival Plaza, an outdoor theater and home to many special events, including the Bluegrass in the Park series, which began in December and is scheduled to run until at least May 4.
NEW BUS TERMINAL AT UNLV
Gov. Brian Sandoval attended the opening ceremony of the UNLV Transit Center on Sept. 4. The terminal was built in part to alleviate a shortage of parking on the UNLV campus, which has more than twice the number of students than it does parking spaces.
A federal grant provided 80 percent of the funding for the project, and the Regional Transportation Commission financed the remainder.
At the opening ceremony representatives from the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada also announced the Launch of UPASS, a program that allows local college students and faculty to buy bus passes at less than half price.
The new transit center is off University Road and is on the southeast corner of the campus.
FREMONT CANNON RETURNS TO UNLV
UNLV’s football team defeated its longtime rival at the University of Nevada, Reno, in the annual Battle of Nevada on Oct. 26. The 27-22 victory meant that the Fremont Cannon, the heaviest and most expensive trophy in college football, returned to Southern Nevada.
As per tradition, the football players wasted little time painting the wooden parts of the cannon UNLV scarlet, covering up UNR’s Navy blue. The cannon had been blue for the last eight years.
THEATER CLOSES FOR MAJOR RENOVATION
Just more than a year after setting up at 821 Las Vegas Blvd. North, the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company closed its theater for renovations in October. If all goes according to plan, the building formerly known as the Reed Whipple Cultural Center will reopen in September 2015 as the Cultural Corridor Theatre Center.
The new center is set to be home to not only to the Las Vegas Shakespeare Company but around a dozen other mostly performing arts nonprofit organizations.
“With arts funding being what it is, it seemed to me if we had a building where we all shared the scene shop and the costume shop, we could have a place that would benefit many organizations,” said Michael Gill, president and chairman of the theater’s board of directors. “I thought that if we added a restaurant and a bar, two commercial tenants to help fund ongoing maintenance of the building and got someone to give donations to renovate the building, we’d really have something.”
Gill approached the owners of Rosemary’s Restaurant, which closed its doors two years ago to open a new restaurant in the complex, and even though the owners had moved out of town, they agreed to be part of the project.
The Rainbow Company Youth Theatre is set to return to the building it called home for much of its existence. The nonprofit is operating out of the Charleston Heights Arts Center, 800 S. Brush St.
Plans call for the expansion of some parts of the building and refurbishing others. Gill hopes everything will be completed by September 2015, when plans call for a joint production of the Rodgers and Hart musical “On Your Toes,” performed by the Nevada Repertory Co., the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Academy of Nevada Ballet Theatre.
Contact Paradise/Downtown View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-380-4532.