How Tony Hsieh Is Spending $350 Million To Change Las Vegas

Tony Hsieh, First Friday, Downtown Las Vegas

Photo: Aimee Groth, Business Insider

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is spending $350 million of his own money
to revitalize downtown Las Vegas.

Click here to see his big investments >
It started with the idea to move Zappos’ corporate headquarters from suburban Henderson, NV, into the old City Hall in Vegas — the full transition will happen next fall, costing $40 million —but turned into a much bigger vision. 

Hsieh is investing $200 million into real estate and residential properties, $50 million into tech startups, $50 million into small businesses, and $50 million into arts, education and culture. 

Essentially, he wants to create one of the world’s next greatest cities.

We recently spent a week in downtown Las Vegas with Hsieh and his colleagues at Downtown Project— the organisation that is managing the investments — and we were impressed by what we saw. 

HE'S INVESTING $200 MILLION ON REAL ESTATE AND RESIDENTIAL PROPERTIES

Primarily in the Fremont East District, which is about two miles from the Strip.

The white building on the right is City Hall, where Zappos is moving its corporate headquarters in Fall 2013.

Hsieh is redeveloping the land directly surrounding City Hall, and several blocks beyond.

A few blocks away is the Ogden, the luxury apartment complex where Hsieh and many Downtown Project employees live.

His apartment is actually three apartments combined.

And includes this jungle-themed party room.

He often hosts parties at his place, for Downtown Project and Zappos employees, and guests from around the world.

He has several maps in his apartment that he uses to strategize his investments.

One of his walls is filled with Post-It notes marked up with ideas for downtown Vegas. That's Zach Ware, who's in charge of the $40 million renovation of City Hall.

There are more ideas on the windows.

Last month Hsieh bought a $1.4 million, 12,000-sq. ft. house nearby, which he'll use to host parties as well.

This is the front entrance.

And the pool house.

Developer Andrew Donner, in white, handles most of the real estate transactions for Downtown Project. Sandi Herrera, next to Hsieh, worked on the $1.4 million deal.

HE'S INVESTING $50 MILLION INTO TECH STARTUPS

Andy White, far right, heads up the Las Vegas Tech Fund.

Many of the startup founders, including Amy Jo Martin of Digital Royalty, live and work in the Ogden.

Robotics startup Romotive was one of the first to move in.

Next to Hsieh here is Frank Gruber of Tech Cocktail, another startup he's investing in.

Hsieh recently invested $500,000 into Rumgr, founded by Dylan Bathurst and Ray Morgan.

The Las Vegas tech community gets together every Thursday evening for pitches and just hanging out.

HE'S INVESTING $50 MILLION IN SMALL BUSINESSES

Sarah Nisperos owns Coterie, a clothing store that just opened on Fremont Street.

Michael Cornthwaite, second from right, owns Downtown Cocktail Room and The Beat Coffeehouse. He's a huge reason why Hsieh is investing in downtown Vegas.

Container Park, an open space surrounded by retailers and other small businesses, is a big part of the plan.

HE'S INVESTING $50 MILLION IN ARTS, EDUCATION AND CULTURE

Downtown Project bought the rights to First Friday, a huge arts festival that attracts thousands of Las Vegans.

Hsieh meets regularly with his First Friday team. To his left is Fred Mossler, a Sr. VP with Zappos.

There's Fred again, at First Friday with his fiancée Megan Boyd, who heads up the Las Vegas Fashion Lab.

But Hsieh is just getting started.

Now see the big presentation Hsieh gave in New York City

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