In 2012, a $485 million performing arts center, a new city hall, two major museums and scores of new businesses were constructed in downtown Las Vegas. A total of 57 projects were completed, under construction or upgraded in this urban area during the year. "After years of hard work, the city's highly strategic redevelopment efforts are paying off," said Bill Arent, director of the city of Las Vegas Economic and Urban Development Department, who also works with the city's Redevelopment Agency.
According to Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn G. Goodman, redevelopment progress is helping downtown reinvent itself as the region's true center of community, culture and commerce. The new year's upcoming development highlights include Zappos.com's $40 million renovations to the former Las Vegas City Hall to accommodate the company's 1,200 employees, the $56 million Discovery Children's Museum scheduled to open this spring, the former Lady Luck Hotel & Casino's $100 million renovation and reopening as Downtown Grand Hotel & Casino in late 2013, and a former Travelodge repurposed into a temporary housing and resource facility for veterans. In addition, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh is investing $350 million of his personal wealth in the downtown area for venture capital and entrepreneurial assistance for startup companies as well as community improvements.
"A check of recent headlines both locally and globally confirms the new respect for downtown and the renewed energy permeating the area," said Rich Worthington CEO of The Molasky Companies and president of the Downtown Las Vegas Alliance (DLVA), a nonprofit consortium of more than 40 downtown businesses working to promote the area. The group's campaign, Rediscover Downtown, targeted to locals, is continuing in 2013 based on its 2012 success.
According to Arent, young families, couples and professionals are contributing to a growing population downtown. They are moving into high-rises and gentrifying downtown neighborhoods full of unique homes built in the 1950s and 1960s that stand in direct contrast to typical cookie-cutter suburban homes in planned housing developments. In addition to the re-population of older single-family neighborhoods close to downtown, the area's high-rises that just a few years ago were less than 30 or 40 percent full are now close to 100 percent occupied.
But it's not just residents who are changing their suburban addresses for more urban locales; many area professionals, including real estate brokers and professional service firms are rethinking their office locations to follow the action. Zappos.com has already moved its first 200 employees downtown to prepare for the 2013 relocation of its company headquarters. The LEV Restaurant Group, which owns and operates more than 35 area restaurants, recently moved into the former Ice House Lounge and invested more than $2 million on renovations; and Denny's recently opened a flagship diner on Fremont Street, complete with wedding chapel and full-service bar.