By Richard White, May 15, 2014
What would you do if you had a spare $350 million? In 2008, after selling Zappos, an online shoe and clothing site, to Amazon for $1.2 billion, Tony Hsieh (Zappos’ CEO) decided to undertake his own urban renewal project. He bought up land in Las Vegas’ east end and created Container Park.
Container Park is perhaps the most exciting and unique urban development project I have ever seen. Though currently it is just one entire block (at the east end of Freemont Street), there is lots of room to expand. Using 40+ old shipping containers, some stacked on top of one another, Hsieh effectively transformed the once - empty block into an attractive, animated urban village.
Half of the block is a vibrant entertainment center with boutiques, restaurants, lounges, a huge children playground with its three-story tree house (young adults also love the playground at night). There is also an outdoor concert venue for the likes of Sheryl Crow (who we missed by a few days) and indie bands.
Container Park, in sharp contrast to the adjacent Old Vegas’ Freemont Experience and the Strip is focused on being an incubator for small-scale start-ups in the fashion, art, food and music industries rather than mega international players. To date, over 50 small businesses have joined the party so to speak.
The other half of the block is a quiet learning campus with several containers positioned to create a campus (kind of like the old portable classrooms of the ‘60s). Here, the Container Park community, as well as others meet and share ideas to help germinate new ideas or expand existing ones.
Hsieh’s vision is to “create the shipping container capital of the world, while at the same time becoming the most community-focused large city in the world.” Judging by the number of people hanging out when we visited (both day and night), he is well on his way in turning his vision into reality.
It is amazing what Hsieh has been able to accomplish in a few years, given the decades it has taken Calgary to get the East Village revitalization off the ground. Container Park opened in the Fall 2013 and is currently the toast of the town. However, the real test of success is best determined in 5 or 10 years when the “lust of the new” has worn off.
As a Calgarian I am totally jealous of Vegas' Container Park. It would be a great way develop some parking lots or vacant sites along a major transit route with retail, residential or office buildings. Perhaps it could be the model for a mixed-use development of the land around an LRT station.
I encourage everyone to check out Container Park when you are next in Vegas!