Las Vegas is a lot of fun.
But every part of the Vegas Strip is designed to confuse tourists into parting with their cash. The casinos have no windows or clocks, they’re designed like mazes so you can’t find the exits, and it’s difficult to get from one venue to the next without taking a taxi.
Even crossing the street sometimes requires a half-mile walk to and from a pedestrian bridge.
In short, The Strip can make you feel stupid for being there, like you’re a sheep getting shorn by the casino resorts.
Zappos’ CEO Tony Hsieh has created an inspiring shopping and dining experience in Downtown Las Vegas — six miles from The Strip that most tourists stay on — and it’s the complete opposite of The Strip. It’s small-scale, walkable, neighbourhood-y and centered around small business and startups.
Called Downtown Container Park, all the businesses inside it occupy 30 reconstructed shipping containers and 41 modular metal cubes. The center courtyard is dominated by a giant treehouse playground.
We visited it recently and liked it a lot. Take a look.
This giant metal praying mantis greets visitors at the front gate of Container Park. It has a surprise in store ...
Flames shoot out of its antenna at unpredictable moments! Hsieh got it from the Burning Man festival. The BI team ducked and screamed in terror the first time it flamed -- you can feel the heat on your eyebrows.
The containers are arranged in a block-long pedestrian mall. It's lovely at night. Hsieh invested $US350 million of his own money into the Vegas Tech Fund to make it happen.
The fund looks for startups in the tech, fashion, photography, art, and music areas. This is the trendy VIP Bar.
Hsieh is looking for 100 - 200 entrepreneurs who need space and resources to build their new companies.
The middle of the courtyard has this massive treehouse playground slide. It's for kids but we spotted some adults who couldn't resist.
The Downtown project chose shipping containers because, 'most urban revitalization efforts are centered in cities with vacant, crumbling buildings. Our Downtown doesn't have those. To quickly create spaces for new businesses here requires innovative thinking, so we're using repurposed shipping containers.'
The project has a Jane Jacobs-style approach to development: 'Ground-level activity and gathering places such as cafes, interesting small businesses, and public spaces increases economic output and happiness.'
Joe Lewis is the master barber in charge. He has a lot to say about his ex-girlfriends, we discovered.
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