Downtown Vegas has come a long way

Downtown Vegas has come a long way

January 10, 2017 3:03 AM


I spent three days in downtown Las Vegas, in the newly renovated section of what is currently hot! Container Park could lure more patrons with a greater variety of stores, handmade artisan wares and live music.

The Fremont Experience was brimming with computer generated imagery and lighting making it a one a kind tourist destination. Great music is played there on the bandstand in the street at various times of the year. There are also performance artists out likely trying to earn some tips.

Downtown would not it be where it is now without the contributions from Zappos, former Mayor Oscar Goodman and wife, current Mayor Carolyn Goodman. They all had a vision of taking the skid row area of Las Vegas and turning it around into its former and original glory. It is now a place spot on with what is totally current.

The Strip is filled with high-end prices and go for it all in everything while downtown is just starting to attract out-of-towners. We’re not seeing the usual group that were return visitors, but a new, young group – downtown’s vitality and future.

Tony Hseih came to Las Vegas with a retail outlet store on Las Vegas Boulevard South about 16 years ago. The San Francisco based mogul’s vision was to create an online store that would reach all over the globe. With opportunities created from the tax exemption and the price per square foot of commercial real estate, he decided to purchase the old Federal Building and began a new energy of working downtown in a field that did not involve casinos.

Hseih relocated hundreds of employees from the San Francisco area. Shoes are not the only product sold anymore – Zappos has become a behemoth department store online. Tony himself bought a residence in the Ogden and many of his employees followed suit.

Restaurants catering to this new group of residents and workers flourished in the area. Hseih has empowered his workers, a genius move, in giving his employees the right to make their own decisions.

A new powerhouse man – Brian Paco Alvarez – is one of my oldest and best friends. He is a culture curator, historian and art enthusiast who before his move to Zappos was curator of the Liberace Museum on East Tropicana Avenue. Zappos is the right place for him to stretch out and create new ideas.

Also downtown is the Mob Museum, which is not merely a place that glorifies the mobsters who “ran” Las Vegas from the late 1930’s through the late 1980’s, when corporate Las Vegas (introduced by Howard Hughes), took control of the town.

The Neon Museum shines brightly and is currently getting more space to further upgrade its immortalization of the Neon Capital of the World. Those signs were hand-crafted by artisans who created the grand illusions of Vegas.

The Art District is a mild success. First Fridays have been around for a while now, but a good deal of the galleries have not been able to sell their displays of quite fine art. Some have closed. Others hope to advance but a real boost is needed here.

The Smith Center, just past downtown near the government buildings complex and the North Las Vegas Outlets, has been a stellar triumph for our introduction into the fine performing arts. Myron Martin was a godsend to create and maintain this wonderful institution that gives another dimension to our performing arts choices.

Downtown hotels have been renovated and made to fit the boutique approach to hospitality. The Plaza offers us a great not-to-be-missed restaurant, Oscar’s Booze and Broads. The décor and menu come from the good old days of the Mob. It is a modern, must-dine spot.

The D, The Grand (the old Lady Luck) – both are ever changing and attempting new avenues to get them spotlighted. New entertainment is necessary to continue to survive. The Golden Nugget, which was redone about 15 years ago, is still our jewel of downtown. The golden boys (Tim Poster and Tom Breitling) were ahead of their time.

Finally, we cannot forget that locals are the backbone of our city. The locals casinos have continued to give us great entertainment, deals, special events, cinema, reduced room rates, and a good buffet. Thanks to Station Casinos, Boyd Gaming, and other locals spots.

And now we have a unique Asian hotel/casino, The Lucky Dragon, which features great authentic Asian food, spotless interior, Asian employees, signs in both Chinese and English and a very special graciousness toward the guest or player.

It was a pleasure to visit the home of the dragon. Downtown is in good hands.

CE-YES: CES, which just held its annual super convention, showcased the Farraday Future electric car that goes over 350 miles on a single charge. The best part is they will be manufactured in North Las Vegas at Apex.

Also, the Hyperloop will literally suck people into a vacuum-like tube and transport them from places such as California to Las Vegas in a short period of time. Many of our frequent guests take that long, four hour car trip now – and have to suffer with paid parking when they arrive.

“La La Land”: The film, which I saw twice, was a unique return to the Golden Age of Movie Musicals (the 1950’s); it received acclaim and awards at the Palm Springs Film Festival.

Ryan Gosling, who starred with Emma Stone, had a tribute message about the late Debbie Reynolds and how she was their inspiration as they watched countless times, “Singin’ In The Rain,” for the feel of what a truly great musical entailed.

Blessings to all in the New Year.