Hip retailer plans to revitalize downtown Vegas

An economic revival in Las Vegas is taking over the streets downtown, attracting more businesses and residents to an area that was haunted by vacant properties. Real estate in Las Vegas was hit hard in the housing bust, but that means there is plenty of room for development and growth. Zappos, an online clothing and shoe retailer that has received high acclaim for its work environment, is moving its headquarters downtown from Henderson late next year. With the move comes the company’s young employees and fresh attitude, and it may prompt other businesses to follow suit.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh invested $350 million of his fortune into a plan to revitalize downtown Las Vegas into a premier location for arts, technology startups and co-working space. Hsieh gave $200 million for land and buildings, $50 million for tech startups that he plans to recruit to the area with investments of $100,000 to $500,000 each, $50 million to local small businesses and $50 million to education and community parks, according to USA Today.

Small businesses and national companies are looking to the area for new opportunities, as well. Some cities, such as Chicago, are looking to the tech industry to create new jobs and improve the economy. In Las Vegas, a southern California video-game testing company is intrigued by the hopeful shift and is seeking property in the area on its own. According to Vegas Inc., several companies have sought out contractors to develop properties downtown.

Currently, downtown Las Vegas has the lowest vacancy rate at 13 percent, yet these figures could be misconstrued due to the fact that downtown has a mere five high-quality office buildings available for general use. Ongoing construction activity downtown is centered around retail, although one major project in sight is the Downtown Project’s Central Container Park that will include 11,000 square feet of retail and 3,200 feet of office space.

For Zappos' part, the company plans to relocate more than 1,500 employees to the new 300,000 square foot campus that broke ground in July by 2013.

"This project could be insane," Zappos co-founder Nick Swinmurn told USA Today. "(The project) could be the next Austin or just another sleepy couple of blocks in Vegas. I think it will take five years." However, Swinmurn continued by saying, "Tony is in it for the long haul. He wants to live in a cool place, a utopia."