ML - Vegas Magazine

2013 - Issue 5 - September

Vegas Magazine - Niche Media - There is a place beyond the crowds, beyond the ropes, where dreams are realized and success is celebrated. You are invited.

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Page 130 of 163

Paula McCartney and Juliana Goldberg's 3rd Street Studio LV opened in the Arts District in April. HE'S THE BILLIONAIRE SHOE AND APPAREL MOGUL WHO LOOKS LIKE A COLLEGE KID, ESPOUSES BIG IDEAS—AND WIELDS A $350 MILLION WAR CHEST. DOWNTOWN THEN AND NOW 1957 Downtown's first hot spot, the Mint casino, opens. 1977 Despite tourism slowly shifting from Downtown to the burgeoning Strip, the Golden Nugget opens its hotel on Fremont Street. The property earns a four-diamond rating and would keep it for 32 years. 1989 Downtown by now is in major decline, and Steve Wynn opens The Mirage, his first Strip megaresort. 1995 Just before the Strip's luxury boom hits, Downtown begins its resurgence when Fremont Street Experience opens. Nine years later it gets a $17 million upgrade. 2010 City officials announce that Zappos will relocate its headquarters to the old City Hall building, and Tony Hsieh gets ready for his big move. PHOTOGRAPHY BY TK; ILLUSTRATION BY TK By March 1968, Downtown was looking a bit brighter. using lessons he learned working for Steve Wynn to develop restaurants and bars and a new hotel, the Downtown Grand, where Lady Luck once stood. Then there are the old-timers, such as the Epstein family and their El Cortez, now on the National Register of Historic Places. Derek Stevens, the automotive supplier from Detroit, has remade Fitzgerald's into the D (outfitting it with a macho Italian steakhouse, Andiamo, that could hold its own on the Strip) and has added a new tower to his Golden Gate. "We have a penthouse suite there," he says, "that outdoes anything at Bellagio." I've seen it myself and can tell you that it's surprisingly big, stylish, comfortable, and macho. Stevens has reason to be proud, and only a churl would quibble over his bit of hyperbole. In late October, when the Life Is Beautiful music and arts festival—viewed as the Downtown Vegas version of Coachella—takes off, the rest of the world will know all about what seems to be the fastest-developing stretch of real estate in town. T hings big and small are popping downtown, and in the thick of it, Hsieh has evolved into the face of the neighborhood. He's the billionaire shoe and apparel mogul who looks like a college kid, espouses big ideas, makes things happen, holds court at the Gold Spike bar—and wields a $350 million war chest. In the process, he snatches up properties like crazy. Walking through the neighborhood one night, a lauded chef from the Strip gushes over the changes, the overall sense of reinvention, and notes that it will all seem so different come fall. Then he marvels, "When you own most of the neighborhood, you get rid of a lot of the red tape." It's the sort of situation that allows Hsieh to fund an endeavor like Project 100, which will combine the best aspects of Uber, Zipcar, and various bike-sharing operations, offering cars, bicycles, and shuttle buses for a single membership. Already 100 Teslas, running on electricity, have been ordered. "The idea," says founder and CEO Zach Ware, "is to encourage people to get rid of their cars." While Hsieh has invested in plenty of start-ups downtown—as varied as bowling alley software called Rolltech, a fashion incubator, and the world's largest gay club, Krave—he maintains that a lot of what he's doing is snatching up troubled spots and using the acquisitions to improve the neighborhood. "Some of the properties that we bought were hotels, like Fergusons and Travelers, associated with crime," he says, explaining that simply shutting these places down makes the surrounding streets safer. "Now we're turning them into boutiques. One will be a comic book store." A comic store might seem obvious, but Hsieh is also instinctively stepping up in more unpredictable ways. Such was the case when chef Natalie Young encountered him and explained that she had quit her job and was going to leave the city to see what she could do on her own elsewhere. On the spot, Hsieh asked how much space she needed. Five months later, Young's restaurant, Eat, was up and running, and it now ranks as one of the best breakfast and lunch spots in town. People on the Strip are taking notice. Never mind that Hsieh dismisses the notion of rubbing elbows with the Wynns and Adelsons of the world. (When I ask him what Steve Wynn has to say about all of this, Hsieh sniffs, "You need to ask him," before telling me he's never met Wynn and has met Adelson only in passing.) Jim Murren, chairman and CEO of MGM Resorts International, however, has met with Hsieh. Murren asked lots of questions and left impressed by the area's "community of innovators." I notice George Maloof and his girlfriend—as if to validate the point—hanging out at Gold Spike, taking it all in. It takes time to adjust to the notion of gambling taking a VEGASMAGAZINE.COM 118-123–V_FEAT_Downtown_Sept13.indd 121 121 8/7/13 4:13 PM

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