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Building community in Las Vegas with Airstreams

Tiny homes are helping the city’s downtown turnaround

In 2013, Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh embarked on a $350 million plan to turn Las Vegas into the “coworking and colearning capital of the world.” He bought about 60 acres of land in the city’s beleaguered downtown, invested $50 million in small businesses incubators and $50 million in arts organizations, and hoped that the extra money would transform Vegas into the Silicon Valley of Nevada.

So far, the rate of return on his investments—collectively called the Downtown Project— hasn’t reached the scale of his ambition. The most notable successes are the Life Is Beautiful music festival—which accounts for $77.7 million of the Downtown Project’s $86.6 million economic output and 64 percent of its job creation—and a community of tiny houses, Airstreams, and micro apartments called Private Residential at Ferguson’s Downtown.

Built on the site of a former motel, the development has attracted an eccentric mix of young residents, including musicians, Zappos employees (Hsieh lives there), families, and entrepreneurs.

Chris Mueller

Ferguson’s Downtown is a microcosm of the larger community Hsieh envisioned, and it’s all anchored by tiny houses: