Monthly Archives: March 2011

Zappos CEO makes great Urban Planner

I don’t know if he knows what he is doing. Maybe we was a planner in a previous life. Or maybe he just wants to help his business grow, and he is brilliant. Whatever he is, he is exactly what a downtown needs that is striving to become a place where people want to be.

Tony Hsieh, CEO of is moving his company from Henderson to downtown Las Vegas, with a dream of making more than just a business district. He wants a community, and not just for his company and his employees. He wants to attract other businesses to this idea of a place where people want to be, live, work and shop.

The Las Vegas Sun outlines a few of his ideas:

• Commuter planes from San Francisco to attract Silicon Valley high tech companies to be part of the action. Commuting by plane rather than car.

• A community kitchen with “The Naked Chef,”  to give free cooking classes.

• Explore establishing a K-12 charter school for creative learning in downtown Las Vegas.

• High-tech business incubator. He already has more than a dozen staff working on plans.

• Downtown homes for Zappos employees. The company is looking at either working out deals for cheaper rents with the mostly empty high-rise condo buildings downtown, or building a “Zappos dorm.”

• Hsieh is exploring building 500 to 1,000 units of 100-square-foot spaces rented for $100 a month — enough room for a bed and a closet, while bathroom facilities would be shared. Maybe a bar or lounge would be attached to the building and renters would crash there whenever they wanted. “Maybe call it the Crash Pad,” he said. Renters would be screened to keep it from becoming a homeless or hooker option, he said.

I don’t know what attracted him to the idea of a downtown community. But he is converted and he is becoming a missionary for the idea.

“At Zappos, we’ve historically thought of our brand in terms of the ‘Three Cs’: clothing, customer service, and company culture,” he says. “Now we want to add a fourth C: community. We want to be a part of revitalizing downtown Las Vegas.”

Isn’t this exactly who every consultants needs on their team when trying to encourage reinvestment in downtown?

In fact,  he is what we need when trying to encourage downtown investment, and redevelopment, in general. If the business community gets on board with the idea of creating a livable communities, they have the spending power and influence to make things happen.


The day job

There are a lot of things I like about my job.

Most important are the projects. We have worked on some really great projects. For instance, the award winning, “Life on State.” It was a corridor project, to bring life back to the major arterial that runs through Salt lake County. There were 11 cities involved. There were several public meetings and a week long design charrette. It was the project that drew me and am confirmed that I had chosen the right career for me.

Then there are the meetings. I actually like public workshops. I know it sounds crazy but I do. For one thing they aren’t like the show “Parks and Recreation” makes them out to be. When you are a consultant you make these things fun. I love watching the people  get caught up in the vision of seeing the place turn around. I love the involvement. I also like the rush of preparing for the meeting, and remembering all the details.

I love the location. Last summer we moved to a new office. It is a few feet away from light rail. We are in a mixed use building with apartments above. Buses go by every five minutes, and there is actually foot traffic. Not something you see everywhere around here. Besides I get my own office, with a big desk.

Of course lets not forget the MoJo. Our office has a great vibe. We listen to good music and have brainstorming sessions that require the whiteboard to decide really important things, like where to go to lunch. And there is an occasional round of golf into paper cup holes while we are waiting for a big file to export. It’s good. Work isn’t supposed to be this fun.

And I get to make maps. And everybody likes to make maps.

First Egypt, then Wisconsin and now Provo, Utah?

Provo is not the sort of place you expect to see a line of picketers marching around Center Street on a Tuesday morning. But, I guess even Provoites will take a stand on some things.

Is Provo City really trying to crack down on “daytime gang” activity, or is there more to the story?

Is this an attempt by the school board to punish home-schoolers?

Or is it, as my conspiracy theorist husband always likes to say, just social engineering, making us accustomed to random arrests?

I get pretty riled up when I feel like THE MAN is trying to make things hard for anyone that doesn’t want to play along, which in this case is home-schoolers. And I do love me a peaceful protest. I was half tempted to grab a sign and join them.

But really, to me, this whole thing mostly seems like focusing on things that don’t really matter.

This is something my children are really good at. They love to have lengthy debates about who it was that left the bathroom light on, or whose turn it is to play on the Iphone. It is sad that after all my years at school, I am reduced to forever repeat the same apathetic phrase,  “It doesn’t matter!”

Is this what Provo has come to? Please understand I am not talk about the protesters, they are justified. Power to the people.

But Provo City?!?  The biggest problem they can see to tackle is the HUGE truancy problem? Are we all so financially secure here that we have nothing more to worry about than a few teenagers that can’t seem to stay in school?

With all that is going on in the world, good old Provo City is doing their part by cracking down on the big issues.

Sarcasm aside, the good news is, the peaceful protest has apparently killed the ordinance.

Way to go Provoians!