Las Vegas

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Las Vegas

A night view of the Bellagio hotel fountains and the traffic on South Las Vegas Boulevard.

san francisco photographer/Flckr/Getty Images

Sin City's rapid outward growth is so stark that NASA recently released a time lapse video of satellite footage documenting the booming expansion over the last 40 years. From 1972 to 2010, the Las Vegas metro area has seen its population grow from slightly under 300,000 to almost 2 million as more residents moved further away from the city proper. Las Vegas-Paradise Metropolitan Statistical Area currently spans all of Clark County, a 7,891 square mile (20,438 square kilometer) tract. Meanwhile the average driver loses 28 hours to traffic congestion [sources: U.S. Census Bureau, Texas A&M].

The unprecedented growth has taken its toll on Vegas, particularly when it comes to infrastructure issues such as maxed out roadways and overcrowding in schools. Then came the recession. Like a fella at a blackjack table who goes all in only to be dealt a pair of threes, home owners and developers found themselves overextended when the bottom fell out of the economy in 2007. The good news is that the half-built subdivisions pock-marked with vacancies and foreclosures that dominated the area during the recent recession are starting to be turned around as part of a short-sale infused transition in the local housing market. [sources: Museum of the City, Coolican, Smith].

At the same time, the city is doubling down on efforts to develop and revitalize its urban center, including the downtown area. In addition to Symphony Park, a 61-acre mixed-use urban community currently under construction, online shoe retailer Zappos is moving at least 1,200 employees from nearby Henderson to a new $350 million downtown community later this year. The idea is to build a neighborhood where Zappos employees and others can live, work and play [sources: Joffe-Block, Gallagher].

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