A Convention Capital, Revived and Renewed, Hosts ICSC RECon for the 30th Consecutive Year
Retail real estate professionals from around the world—a projected 30,000-plus—are set to stream through McCarran Airport next week, heading for the annual ICSC RECon at the Las Vegas Convention Center. They’ll be among the 36 million people expected to visit this desert oasis in 2015. Bound for business or pleasure—or probably a little of both—few visitors realize the city awaiting them is in a constant process of reinventing itself. And why not? After all, Las Vegas has reinvented the Great Sphinx (making it even bigger than the original), the Pyramid of Luxor, the sidewalks of New York and the Eiffel Tower right here in the desert, along with erupting volcanoes, pirate battles, medieval jousts and a bay full of sharks.
From Sin City to a Desert Disney World—That’s Vegas
Known originally as a mob-ruled casino-centered getaway, Las Vegas evolved over time into a glamorous playground for celebrities and high rollers alike. Then came the conventions with three major meeting venues, making the city one of the world’s top spots for major business events like RECon (whose first Las Vegas convention was held in 1985). In the 90’s, family tourism became the draw with the city promoting its affordable hotels, great weather and wholesome new attractions like the world’s fastest zip line, spectacular rides and a world-class aquarium. Now, Vegas has donned a new hat: unsurpassed entertainment delivered 24/7 for just about everyone. And there’s plenty of accommodations for all. The Las Vegas Strip alone (which is technically in the town of Paradise) offers 62,000 rooms in 15 of the world’s 25 largest hotels.
Beyond The Strip, a Slice of Silicon Valley Offers Economic Diversity
Yes, the Strip does glitter. Its 15,000 miles of neon tubing make it the brightest spot on planet Earth, as seen from space. But not far from its bright lights, Las Vegas is reinventing itself again in the Fremont East District with The Downtown Project. Thanks to $350 million in seed money from Tony Hsieh of Zappos and the support of the city government, TDP Ventures, an umbrella organization, is adding a slice of Silicon Valley to Sin City. Their goal of diversifying Las Vegas' tourism-dependent economy with a tech element is off to a strong start. In addition to the Zappos headquarters, the Fremont East District is alive with new development that houses tech startups, healthcare centers, co-working spaces for entrepreneurs, and education initiatives, plus retail real estate in the form of spas, restaurants and shops. Its core is Container Park, a unique open-air mixed-use venue and potential retail real estate trend setter, built partially from 43 repurposed shipping containers. A “parklet,” focused on desert flora and fauna, is being developed in Container Park in collaboration with The Nature Conservancy—not an organization you’d expect to see in Vegas.
Optimism Soars as Vegas Real Estate Rebounds from 2008 Implosion
Las Vegas’ hyper-aggressive development in the early 00’s meant that the crash of 2008 was especially devastating. In fact, the city was among the hardest hit in the nation, with over 70 percent of homes left “underwater.” With tourism tanking in the economic downturn, unemployment eventually topped 14 percent.
Today the ever-resilient city is back and better than ever. Tourist visits broke a record last year. Single home sales are climbing, and unemployment is down to 6.8 percent. New residents continue to pour into the area, attracted by both the desert climate and a cost of living well below the national average. Named to Bloomberg Business’s list of America’s best places to live, Las Vegas, the Great Reinventor, seems once again to have beaten the odds and come out a winner.