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Deep-pocketed Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has an ambitious plan to makeover blighted Downtown Las Vegas—one that the both the current and former local administrations back wholeheartedly. According to the LA Times, former mayor Oscar Goodman went as far as to say that, "Anyone who doubts Hsieh's sincerity...should have his legs broken."
Hsieh has invested $350 million of his own funds to build a live/work community in the 20-block area, calling it a blank slate that could be turned into a community like Austin, Texas. The Downtown Project, as it's named, includes a Container Park filled with small businesses like boutiques, restaurants, beauty salons and an art gallery; the Stitch Factory, a shared space for fashion designers; a private school; a theater; and a medical facility. Hsieh has also moved Zappos' HQ downtown to Vegas' City Hall, an area, says the Times, that until now "has been home to down-market casinos, neighborhood cocktail lounges and auto repair shops."
But one man's urban blight, one man's grimy cocktail lounge or greasy auto repair shop, is another man's hometown. Lou Filardo, a longtime Downtown resident, opposes Hsieh's Downtown Project because he thinks it will wash away the neighborhood's blue-collar character. And, indeed, local businesses are already shuttering, to be replaced with tonier options. "I know you can't make an omelet without breaking eggs, but why are the poor eggs being broken?" he said. "Why not someone else for once?"
Hsieh, meanwhile, points out that it's the city's responsibility to help the poor, not his. "I'm not a big fan of 'What are you going to do for us?'" he said. "There are a lot of people waiting for handouts."
· Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh steps on some toes as he remakes downtown Vegas [LAT]
· Zappos' Tony Hsieh Wants to Create a Garment District in Vegas [Racked LA]