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Tony Hsieh spent a fortune on real estate in downtown Las Vegas, Park City

Tony Hsieh was known to have made his fortune at Zappos selling shoes online and leading an unorthodox lifestyle. He lived in an Airstream trailer with a pet alpaca and had a fondness for the Burning Man festival.

He was also a major real estate investor in Las Vegas who in a short time became a dominant downtown landlord.

Hsieh, who died at the age of 46 of complications from smoke inhalation after being injured in a house fire in Connecticut on Friday, started a side business in 2012, then called the Downtown Project, which would ultimately have a footprint huge in Las Vegas with dozens of properties in its portfolio.

Today DTP Companies, the company has acquired vacant lots, old motels, apartment buildings and other properties; developed the Downtown Container Park open-air shopping center and, with a partner, the Fremont9 apartment complex; transformed the old Fergusons Motel into a shopping center with small retail stores; and, just in October, bought Zappos’ headquarters, the old Las Vegas city hall, for $ 65 million.

Related: More Tony Hsieh Coverage

Bill Arent, the city’s director of economic and urban development, told the Review-Journal on Monday that DTP is one of the largest real estate owners in the city center.

In 2017, his operations spanned approximately 45 acres of land.

Outside of Las Vegas, Hsieh also went on a home-buying spree in the wealthy ski town of Park City, Utah this year, acquiring at least eight homes in August, including a 17,350-foot mansion. square with a sports field, a private lake and riding corral.

“Much more” than $ 350 million

It is not known what will happen to Hsieh’s real estate holdings. Her lawyer, Puoy Premsrirut, did not respond to an email Monday asking if Hsieh had left a will or if she was planning to file a probate application.

DTP quickly assembled its real estate portfolio, acquiring entire city blocks along Fremont Street, and still hasn’t built or redeveloped several sites, including closed and decades-old motels.

“Frankly, we bought all of these blocks a few years ago with no idea what to do with them,” John Curran, then DTP’s real estate portfolio manager, told the Review-Journal in a 2017 interview on motels.

Overall, Hsieh’s company had built up a portfolio of some 90 properties by then, Curran said at the time.

Hsieh launched the Downtown Project with the goal of investing $ 350 million in the Fremont Street neighborhood. It has invested in restaurants, bars, tech startups and other businesses, but the majority of the fund, at $ 200 million, has been allocated to real estate and development.

He has invested heavily in a once neglected area of ​​Las Vegas that was plagued with prostitution and drugs, residents say. When the business started, “people laughed at us” and said the group was “nuts,” Todd Kessler, partner and lawyer at Resort Gaming Group, the former owner of Zappos told the former city ​​hall, which helped launch the DTP.

He said DTP’s prize pool was “100%” Hsieh’s, and the group ended up spending “a lot more” than $ 350 million.

Colliers International real estate broker Chris Clifford compared Hsieh’s real estate strategy to a phrase from Apple co-founder Steve Jobs that people don’t know what they want until someone has theirs. given.

“I think it was the same situation with downtown Las Vegas,” Clifford said.

Roll dice

There was very little momentum downtown and new investment was stalling, before DTP started pumping money into the area, said Amy Lance, CBRE Group broker and office specialist.

Former city councilor Bob Coffin, whose neighborhood included the downtown core, said the Fremont East neighborhood was “a bit shabby” when he took office in 2011, and that no new construction was being done. In progress.

Prior to the arrival of the DTP, the Fremont East Entertainment District had been formed to attract more taverns and nightlife to the area, Arent said. But for the most part, the city center “was not seen as a place for locals” until Hsieh began to invest heavily in the area, he added.

“That’s what really changed,” Arent said.

Clifford said interest in the city center continues to grow, but with projects such as casino owner Derek Stevens’ newly constructed resort, Circa, it’s only a matter of time before more investors are flocking to the area.

Contact Eli Segall at [email protected] or 702-383-0342. To follow @eli_segall on Twitter. Review-Journal editor Subrina Hudson contributed to this report.

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