The following is part two 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.
By Rena Troldahl & Philip Monfils
There is only so much you can understand about a place and its people from 1,600 miles away. Our attempts have certainly been admirable but finally being here provides a whole new perspective.
Today we were fortunate enough to talk to some truly colorful characters; bright people with unique approaches and exquisite senses of humor. Although we’ve only just arrived in Las Vegas, the all-around vibe has been incredibly welcoming, as well as humbling and inspiring.
After a few hours of sleep upon our arrival, we went off to a tour of the zappos headquarters. The culture was immediately captivating; personally decorated cubicles within close quarters of one another, with CEO Tony Hsieh in the center of it all.
Later in the day, we met with a few of the Downtown Project members including a woman named Jen from Wellthily, who was an expert and advocate in the realm of food and nutrition. Jen was able to catch us up on the urban agriculture movement in Downtown Las Vegas and tell us who some of the vital players are in town.
Conversation ranged from hydroponics to permaculture, to food waste, to water issues, to educational campaigns, and more. It was fantastic to observe her powerful commitment to a cause. But it wasn’t just Jen. We would later realize that this sort of enthusiasm was ubiquitous among those we met.
We later met with more members of the Downtown Project for a mixer at, incredibly enough, Tony Hsieh’s apartment. There, we saw the spark that makes ideas come alive long before they exist explicitly. We can all see where we’re heading, now. We are built with anticipation for the rest of the week as we plant ourselves into this unfamiliar community.
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.