Finding inspiration in Sin City

The following is part three in a series detailing the efforts of UI students as they work alongside influential Las Vegas entrepreneurs, including Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, to help reimagine the city’s downtown area. Armed with a budget, powerful ideas and knowledgeable contacts, the group will be spending the week out West to turn their ideas into reality. Meanwhile, they’ll be writing about their experiences right here on Little Village. View the full series.

Note: Students are also posting Twitter Updates throughout the week using the “ReiDT” hashtag, while more official updates can be found via the group’s dedicated Twitter account.

By Mike Greeby and Drew O’Bleness

Reimagine Downtown
“One of the things that we took away from the tour was the passion this organization puts into developing a rapport amongst its employees…” Photo by Elizabeth Bledsoe

Numerous times over the past two days the Downtown Project workers have discussed the notion of dog years, the ideology that so much can get done in so little time. It is mind-blowing that you can collide with so many inspiring people in just twenty-four hours that you find yourself creatively exhausted, but in a great way.

Today, we experienced a speed-dating style scenario of engaging with prominent players that are making the Downtown Project so special. These people are the tip of the pyramid, so to speak, excelling at finding creative solutions within their respective fields while also developing a broader connection to the greater downtown area.

Reimagine Downtown
“We spoke to experts in healthcare, education, small business, urban connectivity, and more…” Photo by Mike Greeby
After a number of discussions with a wide variety of these people, we began to realize that these individuals aren’t just pursuing their own, exclusive visions. They’re instead seeking to make the city a better place through a collective effort. We spoke to experts in healthcare, education, small business, urban connectivity, and more, and found this sentiment to be ubiquitous.

This realization was crucial in understanding how this area might improve. The collective action of everyone involved is this group’s greatest asset, it seems. Put another way, the spirit of collaboration is thick, and it’s clear that these individuals are motivated by far more than Tony Hsieh’s financial support of the project.

We continued to notice this high level of connectivity when we went to lunch at a place called Eat and noticed many of the people we had just spoken to were also eating at various tables throughout this restaurant, going about their lives. This particular restaurant sprouted from the owner’s (Natalie) genuine love for food, and was made possible in-part by the efforts of the Downtown Project crew. Seeing these community-minded people continue to collide in a place such as this was a very comforting sight.

Eat in Las Vegas
“This particular restaurant sprouted from the owner’s (Natalie) genuine love for food…” Photo by Mike Greeby

It was also great opportunity to introduce ourselves to some of the people from Venture for America as they are of similar age and–similar to us–have been given a voice to follow what truly inspires them.

That afternoon, we were privileged to be able to take a tour of the new headquarters for Zappos as a sort of comparison to the currently-used offices we saw in Henderson yesterday.

Reimagine Downtown
“It was incredibly hard to not be motivated…” Photo by Mike Greeby
One of the things that we took away from the tour was the passion this organization puts into developing a rapport amongst its employees, the notion being that high morale and happy workers tap into a unique channel of corporate growth and development. Our guide through the building had such pride in the vision of the company and what was to come, and it was incredibly hard to not be motivated by the efforts of Zappos to bring their employees together.

We finished up the night with a visit to the Las Vegas Iowa Club, appropriately enough. As we unwound from our very inspirational day, being in the company of fellow Hawkeyes seemed the perfect ending to our night.


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Stay tuned throughout the rest of the week as these University of Iowa students continue to chronicle their experiences on Little Village. Updates will arrive daily through March 23.

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