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 zappos.com 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.

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