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Joe Downtown

Joe Downtown: A final column of advice, predictions and ponderings

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See ya later: After two years covering Downtown, columnist Joe Schoenmann is moving on.
Photo: L.E. Baskow

East Fremont Street looks nicer these days. Downtown Project has more employees. Redevelopment in the Arts District has stalled, but it’s coming along.

Still, if you’re Downtown and listening closely, it’s easy to pick up the murmurings of angst.

This is my last Joe Downtown column in the Weekly—I’m moving into the realm of public radio—so I’m going to lay down a few bits of advice, say some goodbyes and recount some random tales collected over the last nearly two years of writing this column. Here goes:

Downtown Project needs a leader. Someone who is rational, empathetic and a grown-up.

Being a grown-up means not sending emails bad-mouthing people or making jokes about someone else’s livelihood. Know where those email chains often end up? In my inbox.

Downtown needs real businesses. Restaurants are good, but there are too many taverns. Build things people can use and afford. That grocery store across from the El Cortez will help, but whatever you do, don’t call it Grocer-ly. In fact, don’t allow any business or app to use “li” or “ly” as a suffix.

The Beat remains the hangout. Simple accommodations and Wi-Fi will outlast and outdraw anything sparkling new, especially with the hipster crowd.

O Face Doughnuts is too good. I’d gorge on those doughnuts and iced coffee every day, so I simply avoid walking near it.

More nests for skylords are needed Downtown (that is, more mid- to high-rise residential units).

Krissee Danger is already missed Downtown. She resigned from DTP and has moved to Zappos.com, where she worked before being one of the first hires by Downtown Project three years ago.

If you’re a DTP honcho, stay off social media. Insecure rants sound like insecure rants, even if you delete them a few minutes after posting.

Listen to employee complaints. People don’t complain when they’re happy. When they’re unhappy, word spreads and reporters listen. Don’t ignore them.

Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh has huge cajones to invest $350 million into Downtown. But he needs to pay more attention to his baby. If he doesn’t, it’s going to either fall apart or become something so far from his original vision he won’t recognize it when it’s fully grown.

DTP should have never jettisoned “return on community” from its mission statement. No matter how hard it was to live up to, that ideal inspired and made DTP seem better than your garden-variety corporation.

Michael Cornthwaite and his wife, Jennifer, have proven their mettle. If you trust no one else Downtown, trust them.

Since January 2013, Jody Sherman, Ovik Banerjee and Matt Berman have all died by their own hands. Remember them, especially when dealing with people whose inner demons you can’t fathom.

Where will Downtown be in five years? I hope it’s brimming with life, people and business. Nothing would please me more than to be able to show off the neighborhood to outsiders who forsake Las Vegas as a modern-day Babylon.

The Arts District will come along more organically. Businesses will start and grow—or die—according to consumer demand. It may take longer to redevelop, but its roots might also be stronger.

As for East Fremont and the surrounding land, mostly owned by Downtown Project, my guess is that unless one of DTP’s investments becomes the Next Big Thing, DTP will run out of cash. Then it will attempt to sell its land holdings to make money—and it might have to sell low to draw new business to the area.

Hsieh’s vision was to create community Downtown, right? If so, he will do whatever is necessary to make it happen. Even if that means losing a little money.

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