Desert Companion

Media: A new web hub for reviving the city core

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Yet another Tony Hsieh downtown initiative: a web hub for stories about — and resources for — reviving the city core

There’s a new, soft-launched website covering the downtown Las Vegas business and cultural renaissance. Called the Downtown Project (www.downtownproject.com), it’s currently (and so far quietly) offering a little bit of everything — stories about First Friday artists and new start-up companies, a calendar of community cultural events, an archive of news articles about how the city’s heart is blossoming at a time when sprawl is receding and people are now, finally, considering downtown as the best, most viable area in which to live, work and eventually start a business.

Launched by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, it’s a separate company from Zappos. Downtown Project’s mission on its site: to foster “the most community-focused large city in the world … by inspiring and empowering people to follow their passions to create a vibrant, connected urban core.” The site even provides a helpful link to Edward Glaeser’s recently published and already influential book “Triumph of the City,” which, contrary to what eco-gurus and libertarians preach, argues that cities are the healthiest, greenest and wealthiest places to live. So, then, does the Downtown Project have an agenda?

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“No, not all,” insists Zach Ware, Zappos project manager and the guy in charge of Downtown Project’s development side. “It’s definitely not a PR site; it’s not a media outlet. It’s an effort focused on creating community and cataloguing downtown development.”

Think of it, says Ware, as a network of people looking to inspire others who are interested in bringing — or finding inspiration for — their downtown ideas. The site is still “a work in progress,” Ware says, but the company’s offline goal is crystal-clear. Whether fashioning a business plan or applying for permits or acquiring funding, the Downtown Project seems to be the place to find tips and get advice. Look for upcoming information on education initiatives (like charter schools), on the philosophy of urban planning, or on determining a cool place to live downtown that’s sustainable and cost-cutting in this age of rising energy and fuel costs.

The site’s main writer and editor — actually, she prefers the tag “storyteller” — is longtime Vegas journalist Kim Schaefer, who says her new job (as of this writing, she’s two weeks in) isn’t about examining inner Vegas through rose-colored glasses.

“It’s about capturing interesting perspectives on the city,” she explains. “And maybe giving artists and business owners, who perhaps don’t always get the support they deserve, some attention.”

So far, stories posted on the site cover everything from the debut of the new /usr/lib, a tech entrepreneur-centered library inside the Emergency Arts, to a profile of Ammy Miller, an artist who fashions “burses,” or purses using old books, selling them at First Friday and in local shops (including The Funk House).

“It’s a pleasure to make something like this happen,” says Schaefer. “I like to think we’re offering a way for us all to look back on what the downtown community has accomplished and to continue sharing thoughtful ideas.”

“Downtown Project wants to promote collaboration on the city’s future,” adds Ware. “We want to inspire people to do great things downtown.”

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