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April 23, 2014

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Joe Downtown: Historic day for city’s center as Zappos makes itself at home

Image

Steve Marcus

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman speaks during the grand opening ceremony for the new Zappos headquarters in the old city hall building downtown Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. According to RecordSetter, a record was set for the largest number of people (1,577 people) to cut a grand opening ribbon at the same time.

Zappos Opening Ceremony Downtown

Zappos employee Ana Santiago catches confetti during the grand opening ceremony for the Zappos headquarters in the old city hall building downtown Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. According to RecordSetter, a record was set for the largest number of people (1,577 people) to cut a grand opening ribbon at the same time. Launch slideshow »

Zappos Downtown Tour

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh looks out a window from the Monkey Room where he has his office at the new Zappos headquarters in the old city hall building downtown Monday, Sept. 9, 2013. The downtown headquarters officially opened Monday. Launch slideshow »

Las Vegas City Hall: Before Zappos

A city seal is shown on a door mat at the old city hall building is shown March. 6, 2012. The building is now the headquarters of Zappos. Launch slideshow »

Almost 1,600 people, the majority of them Zappos employees, streamed into their new headquarters in downtown Las Vegas today, many of them seeing the rehabbed former City Hall for the first time.

As they walked in, each was given a pair of scissors, sheathed in blue plastic with the words "Zappos" and "09-09-2013" painted on the side.

Many will save them as a memento of the day they moved out of their headquarters into downtown Las Vegas. City officials might have the things enshrined, because as former Mayor Oscar Goodman said, Monday was "the first day of the rest of Zappos' life."

And the movement of 1,500 employees from Henderson to Las Vegas and into the old City Hall, now rehabbed with some $48 million in improvements, may also represent the first day of a completely new life for downtown Las Vegas.

The herald to Zappos' downtown move has been the creation of a redevelopment group, Downtown Project, which is investing some $350 million into education, entertainment, real estate, small business and tech.

Dividends from that investment are already paying off, as local commercial real estate agents acknowledge the growth in the number of companies looking to relocate into the downtown area.

The redevelopment will likely move even faster now with the influx of Zappos employees — to say nothing of another 800 Downtown Grand employees to begin working soon in the former Lady Luck resort just two blocks away.

You can forgive city officials, who have tried for years to jump-start development downtown, if they pinch themselves.

"I am so delighted to be here," Mayor Carolyn Goodman told the crowd, many of them fanning themselves in the unusually humid, hot afternoon weather. "This is a whole new old City Hall … What a difference as we move forward into the coming year."

Walking into the building's rotunda, where employees packed the ground floor and the two higher levels encircling it, Hsieh told everyone it felt "surreal … like I'm in 'Mad Max' and the Thunderdome."

After a "world record grand opening" ribbon-cutting, which was overseen by RecordSetter, one of the companies that the Downtown Project, through its VegasTechFund, has invested in, employees were given 90 minutes to wander around their new building.

Having worked in Zappos' former headquarters in Henderson, their new HQ in downtown Las Vegas won’t be too much of a surprise. It is filled with Zappos touches.

Garbage/recycling cans are labeled on the “Trash” side with tissue, food, boogers and Styrofoam, while the recycling side of the can is more spacious.

Employees will probably enjoy the elevators, which are equipped with large, flat-screen TVs that have interactive functions, such as a touch screen full of fart sounds and a variety of video games. One game requires one person to move a shooter, while another person pushes the screen to fire a digital gun at zombies.

Monday morning tour guide Brad Tomm, Zappos head of sustainability, said that when the entire rehabbing of the old City Hall, 400 E. Stewart Ave., is complete, the building will be LEED-gold certified. It will be 45 percent more efficient in water use and 20 percent more energy efficient than its previous HQ.

The company’s cafe, called Bistro, is six times bigger than the Henderson office: from 2,000 to 12,000 square feet. Salad, soup and cold sandwiches are free. Hot meals cost $3 to $5. The company coffeeshop, Z Cafe, offers free drinks and nothing else over $2. The cafe is in a former library/engineering building on the northeast of the site. Wooden beams, for years hidden by a dropped ceiling but exposed during renovation, were polished and left exposed.

Employees also sought out checkmarks on a scavenger hunt scorecard. Once filled, the card entitled them to a wristband, which entitled them to drink free at the Gold Spike, two blocks south, which is also owned by Downtown Project.

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown; he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.

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