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This Ain’t a One Horse Town: The Coworking Gold Rush Hits Vegas

Downtown Las Vegas (Instragram: DTLV DowntownProject Las Vegas)

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To the millions of tourists who make their way to Las Vegas annually, the city is unexpected, a gilded playground and adult oasis rising out of the one of the hottest deserts on earth. While a small percentage of these visitors venture past the Las Vegas Strip to see what goes on behind the neon, not many imagine that the people who live here have lives outside of the gaming industry or that there is a developed tech scene and still fewer know that Las Vegas is a turning into a hotbed for coworking activity.

Vegas, with a population of over 2 million, has a rich history and diverse culture. Once an outpost and watering hole for those en route to California during the Gold Rush, the city still holds an allure for modern day speculators and prospectors. Vegas’ newest golden boy and Zappos founder Tony Hseih’s recently promised to turn Vegas into the ‘coworking capital of the world.’

"Boomtown" Downtown

Vegas’ newest golden boy and Zappos founder Tony Hseih’s recently promised to turn Vegas into the ‘coworking capital of the world.’ With that assertion, it suddenly seems that the Gold Rush is back on in Boomtown. “Tony’s words tends to have a lot of impact. Also, I think we were ripe for it!” says Pawel Szymczykowski, a Zappos team member and organizer of /usr/lib, a popular community technology library and coworking hangout in Las Vegas’ downtown district.

San Francisco’s original coworking hub, Citizen Space, has been keeping a close eye on the developments in Las Vegas while making plans for their own entry onto the Las Vegas coworking scene.  “We discovered the cool things going on in downtown, and decided we wanted to be there,” says to Toby Morning, Chief Evangelist at Citizen Space.  Citizen Space’s involvement has helped lay the groundwork for downtown coworking. “When we started our plan for Las Vegas, there was nothing, and thankfully (for the locals) there have been a few spaces like the /usr/lib that have opened.”

Las Vegas’ other new coworking sites include: the much-lauded Switch at InNevation, CoLab, COBIZ and the forthcoming space to be named “Work in Progress.” Work in Progress is a separately founded and funded entity. The company has recently signed a lease and will soon begin construction on a space located on 6th Street in Downtown Las Vegas with hopes of opening in early 2013.

Much of the new efforts in coworking tend to be focused on downtown. Industry and government have invested millions on the Downtown Project in order to revive the city’s economy which was devastated by the 2008 housing crisis and its fallout. While there is a great deal of excitement about coworking downtown, and there are also challenges.

“Vegas is a pretty spread out city where a lot of people inhabit their specific areas of the suburbs and commute into wherever they work.” says Szymczykowski “Coworking seems to work best when more people live in the city, or when there is a large common focal point for people to gather around.”

Happy Trails - Coworking Outside of Downtown

While plans for coworking downtown are brewing, Kat Jaramillo a Las Vegas native, has staked a claim to coworking and has her own ideas about what coworking can mean for the people of Las Vegas. Jaramillo and her husband opened COBIZ in May on the scenic southwestern extreme of the city. 

“There is a lot of buzz about coworking in Las Vegas, however, it seems that some people believe that the only option is downtown.” says Jaramillo. “I believe a lot of people, freelancers, start-ups, developers and the like are drawn to that downtown project... I, personally, am not attracted. Downtown Las Vegas is where I cruised as a teenager and a place I drive by on my way out of town for a weekend getaway! Downtown Vegas will always be downtown to me.”

While downtown has its advantages, there are distinct advantages to coworking in some of Las Vegas’ less urban areas. “I wake up every morning... and look to the light shining on the Spring Mountain Range and steep cliffs of Red Rock Canyon!” says Jaramillo of life at COBIZ.

Next page: The challenges for coworking in Las Vegas

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