Downtown and out? The truth about Tony Hsiehâ€™s $350m Las Vegas project...
J Thoendell stashed this in Tech
The multi-millionaire internet entrepreneurâ€™s outlandish experiment in urban revival is fast becoming an object of ridicule. So whatâ€™s really going on in downtown Vegas?
It's like the anti-mall in Costa Mesa
I've never been there but Downtown Vegas seems like a work in progress.
Gold Spike, whose ground floor turns, several nights of the week, into the kind of party scene whose noise renders its upper floors all but unsleepable, exemplifies the intensely social focus â€” or, to its detractors, intense frivolity â€” of the Downtown Projectâ€™s urban vision. One of Hsiehâ€™s known hangouts â€“ rumour has it he often turns up there to buy shots for the room â€“ Gold Spike offers ample opportunity for two of the concepts the Downtown Project values most: collisions, and connectedness.
These two oft-heard terms codify Glaeserâ€™s analysis of the benefits of urban proximity. But downtown Las Vegas has long lacked anything like the residential population needed for the kind of density that can by itself ensure such collision and connection. And so, until such time as that density arrives, the Downtown Project has attempted to come up with a substitute: by incentivising the building of institutions that maximise something called â€ścollisionable hoursâ€ť.
A collisionable hour, to the best of my understanding, is an hour you spend in a downtown social space: having a cappuccino at its perpetually vinyl record-soundtracked coffee shop, for instance, or eating at one of its â€śrestaurant conceptsâ€ť, tinkering with a project in its â€śco-working spacesâ€ť, drinking in one of its ever-more-numerous bars, taking your pet to its members-only dog park, or playing oversized chess out behind Gold Spike. Do this for an hour a day, and youâ€™ll have put in 365 collisionable hours after a year, all of which would count towards the Downtown Projectâ€™s stated goal of producing 100,000 such hours per acre, per year.
This sort of quantification may strike even some of the wonkier urbanists out there as overthinking it. But what really stuck in the pressâ€™s craw was how, in February, â€śconnectednessâ€ť suddenly replaced â€ścommunityâ€ť in the Downtown Projectâ€™s official language. Was this the renunciation of an ideal, or at least a responsibility?