Joe Downtown:

Joe Downtown: Tony Hsieh inspires out-of-town developer to fast track housing, retail plans

Developer Kevin Plencner plans to invest in the downtown area on the 900 block between Hoover and Coolidge.

Downtown Development

Developer Kevin Plencner plans to invest in the downtown area around the right side of the 900 block between Hoover and Coolidge. Launch slideshow »

Kevin Plencner sounds like a missionary ready to help bring about the second coming.

His Oak Brook Realty and Investments is gearing up to be a major part of downtown's rebirth.

Not only does the Illinois-based company own the multistory, public parking garage directly north of the Clark County Justice Center, it also owns a block of Casino Center Drive that it wants to convert into a mid-rise, affordable housing, commercial and office complex.

Plencner's vision includes commercial space, office space and a parking garage. To afford the estimated $70 million cost, Oak Brook wants to do something rarely seen: split the pieces among different developers. He has given himself a two-year timeline.

“Someone does the parking, another does workforce housing, another does commercial, and someone does offices,” Plencner said.

In the meantime, the Casino Center Drive property, purchased for $7.5 million in 2008 and adjacent to the “18B” Arts District sign, will be adorned with wrought-iron fencing. Oakbrook also is seeking city permission to build two entertainment venues at its north and south corners to house food trucks, flea markets, midnight movies and other events.

“The idea is to dress up the neighborhood,” he said.

Construction of a mid-rise building eventually would replace the entertainment venues.

Meanwhile, retail space on the first floor of the parking garage by the courthouse already has been converted into law offices. Two restaurants — Gargano Bistro and Sultan’s Grill II, whose sister restaurant is in Summerlin — and a food court are expected to open in the coming months.

Plencner bought the garage for $12.5 million in 2008.

Oak Brook also owns the former Victory Motel, 307 S. Main St., a building the city wants to preserve. Talks are underway to see if it's possible to move the motel to the Spring’s Preserve. Once it is gone, Plencner plans to build a convenience store there, along with affordable housing.

Oak Brook hopes to fast track its plans because of the energy created downtown by Zappos and the Downtown Project, the private redevelopment group backed by Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh.

The Container Park also has given Plencner ideas to chew on. Seeing shipping containers being used as retail space makes him want to attach the structures to the second floor of his parking garage.

“I like his ideas,” Plencner said of Hsieh. “What’s happening down here is phenomenal.”

Tags: News, Business

Joe Schoenmann doesn’t just cover downtown, he lives and works there. Schoenmann is Greenspun Media Group’s embedded downtown journalist, working from an office in the Emergency Arts building.