Llamalopolis, an Urban Tiny Living Oasis

Ten thousand miles into our exploratory tiny house road trip, we found ourselves in the infamous Sin City. Along with the dancing neon lights and innumerable casinos, downtown Vegas hosts many bustling small businesses, especially at the magnificent Container Park, countless brightly colored murals and seen strolling down streets are locals and tourists alike, even families. The splendid picture of downtown revitalization. Not that long ago this area of Vegas was practically a wasteland.

Mural in Downtown Vegas

Mural in Downtown Vegas

Container Park

Downtown Container Park

Christian and I were busy taking in the sights when we caught a glimpse of something truly out of the ordinary, a tiny house community!

Tiny House Expedition arrives at Llamalopolis

Llamalopolis – as some people refer to it – is a tiny house on wheels and Airstream village in the Fremont East District, in the heart of downtown Las Vegas. Lovingly referred to as the “Airstream Park” by its residents. In the fall of 2014 it was just another vacant, run-down lot. Long ago it had been an RV park and still retained some of its infrastructure like hook-ups, though in disrepair.

Llamalopolis in Downtown Vegas

Llamalopolis in Downtown Vegas

Along came a visionary by the name of Tony Hsieh, the CEO of Zappos and founder of The Downtown Project. He was looking for a new place to call home, and just so happened he owned a combined total of 33 Tumbleweeds and Airstreams. An idea came to him to park all of these at the old RV park to conduct a community experiment.

Tony Hsieh

Tony Hsieh

In the fall of 2014, Tony invited 30 friends to stay at the lot for two weeks to explore ideas on how to create a functioning, sustainable community. This was a simple community setup on what was just an empty paved lot, but it was soon brought to life by this group of creative thinkers. During their stay, they would all gather around the fire to cook, share ideas and listen to music. They explored design concepts for the optimal community layout, what amenities were most needed, and enjoyed each other’s company. Tony and several others were loving this simple, connected lifestyle. After a couple of nights, they knew that they wanted to stay for good. For Tony, an extraordinarily successful man, this would become his full-time residence.

A vibrant and definitely unique urban tiny house community model has since organically evolved to best meet the needs of its residents. While the structure of the community has deliberately been molded to foster daily spontaneous social encounters. Tony calls these collisions.

Video below: see inside the community!

Llama decor

Portal into Llamalopolis

Portal into Llamalopolis

We entered Llamalopolis through a llama decorated gate. Immediately we found ourselves in an enchanting semi-covered tunnel covered with twinkling lights and lined with trees. Later we learned this recycled element came from a local Christmas display. We could just make out the tiny homes in the background, and could clearly smell the nearby alpaca pin. The tunnel opens up to the “living room”; an outdoor shared common space centered around two fire pits and a stage.

The "Living Room"

The “Living Room”

Christian and I certainly didn’t know what to expect when we came for a visit. We were delightfully surprised by how to down-to-earth the residents are. They come from varied professional and socioeconomic backgrounds, including both full-time and part-time residents. Many of the residents are working downtown professionals, and a few are digital nomads that work from home or travel heavily for work.

It was wonderful to have neighbors. They proved to be fun, kind, and fascinating folks. Cue a few tiny house, house parties and much storytelling around the fire.

The community itself felt like a big, warm family including a wide assortment of animals (chickens, alpacas, dogs and cats).

Regarding the structure of the community, the shared common areas act as an extension of living space for each resident and their respective sleek Airstream or cozy Tumbleweed tiny house, which all face toward these spaces. Each tiny home has power, water (city water) and sewer hook-ups. The “living room” includes shared “green” space (artificial turf) with chairs, tables, a giant bed swing, fire pits and a stage. The stage features a projector with Apple TV with a community iPad attached for playing music or outdoor movies. A large Airstream bus with rooftop deck sits in the back, offering a chill hangout spot and great views of downtown, the community stage and neighboring bar/music venue, The BunkhouseTwo large, mobile canopies serve to provide shade or rain cover above the seating areas. 

2016-02-03 15.20.45

5 foot concrete wall surrounds Llamalopolis

The entire community is enclosed by five foot high concrete wall. This helps maintain a sense of safety; especially important because it’s home to the most famous local Vegas celebrity, Tony. We found the wall also helps foster a connected community feel.

2016-02-07 15.02.12

Tumbleweed tiny houses

The shared community facilities include a kitchen, laundry room, and indoor office/lounge space. This indoor space they found is key for encouraging social interaction during the scorching summer heat.

Community life

Community life

The entire park is WiFi enabled; perfect for working outdoors. Use of all these shared facilities is included with the cost of rent along with utilities, though there is a community “piggy bank” for beer money contributions.

Community piggy bank

Feed the pig!

All residents and guests come through one main entrance (the trippy covered tunnel); this strengthens the community vibe by increasing the number of spontaneous social collisions. Parking is in a nearby satellite lot. There is a exit gate that can be unlocked for cars, trucks or tiny homes to enter as needed.  

2016-01-30 14.12.33

The tunnel entrance and shared common area

Several empty Airstreams and tiny houses are considered “crash pads” and are available to guests of residents as short term rentals. Potential residents must be recommended via word-of-mouth by current residents. There is a one week trial period for new residents. This is to determine fit by both parties, current residents and potential newcomer.

Crash pad for short term stays

Park Ranger

Llamalopolis has a point person, the “park ranger” or community manager. He manages the park, handles scheduling, fields requests from residents, oversees maintenance, troubleshoots interpersonal or technical issues, and more. The park ranger and residents communicate within one another through Slack, a messaging app for teams or groups. For example, someone made dumplings to share, he or she messages an open invite to the group. There is a security, maintenance and cleaning staff that keep the park operational and in tip-top shape. Residents help keep things clean and orderly as well.

Nighttime hangs around the campfire

The style and vibe of the community is reminiscent of Burning Man. This festival, known for its emphasis on community, art, self-expression, and self-reliance, made a lasting impression on Tony and a handful of residents. The air at Llamalopolis is often filled with music and smoke from the fire pits that are always burning once the sun goes down. Spontaneous conversations and impromptu potlucks are common organic community building occurrences.

Eva and Krissee make dumplings to share

Eva and Krissee make dumplings to share

The night we arrived an unplanned potluck feast came together. Daniel & Ranielle (@biglifetinyhouse) had planned to make lettuce wraps to share, while Tony had a craving for chicken and ordered extra to share, and on her way home and unaware of the other food happenings, Jess ordered pizzas to share. Residents all wandered to the living room for food and conversation. Leftovers were put in the community kitchen to be shared with any residents who missed out. Thoughtful and kind, as usual.

The "Living Room"

The “Living Room”

We learned that there’s an emphasis on residents making contributions to the community. These contributions are based around each individual’s natural gifts, abilities and interests, not on a traditional chore list. For instance, resident Daniel Park is a professional musician, and often contributes music for the enjoyment of his neighbors. Daniel also organizes the bi-monthly Open Air Sessions. Friends of residents, Zappos and The Downtown Project come out to enjoy a lively open mic night in the Llamalopolis living room. You never know who will stop by for a surprise jam session, like the lead singer of Imagine Dragons.

Open Air Sessions at Llamalopolis

Open Air Sessions at Llamalopolis, aka the Airstream Park

As we got to know our temporary neighbors, we were intrigued to learn that many of them are introverts. Resident Krissee remarked that she loved people, but left to her our own introverted tendencies, she wouldn’t go out of her way interact with others. The spontaneous daily collisions between Krissee and her neighbors help her maintain a healthy sense of well-being. Living at Llamalopolis is a perfect opportunity for her to enjoy her neighbors’ company, while always having the option to retreat to her private, cozy tiny home.

2016-02-04 17.24.15

Airstream sunsets

For Tony, living here isn’t about living small at all. In fact, he said this is the biggest home he has ever lived in. Tony’s life is outside of his tiny home, or his “bedroom”. His community life is essential to feeling part of something more meaningful, a more alive way of life.

Tumbleweed tiny house

We ended up staying for two weeks and couldn’t have felt more welcomed or more at home. I never expected to feel that way in downtown Vegas, of all places.

Llamalopolis is continually evolving and now has the goal of achieving net zero energy.

Llamalopolis

Can this community model be replicated? You bet! Abandoned or dilapidated urban RV parks can be transformed into vibrant intentional communities. What’s needed, besides quality tiny homes? Start-up capital, creative thinkers and engaged community members.

Would you want to live in this kind of community? Share your thoughts below.

by Alexis Stephens

All Photos Copyright Tiny House Expedition

Stay up to Date with the Tiny House Movement

Join our email list and stay updated with what is going on in the Tiny House World.


Simply enter your name and email below and we will notify you of new and exciting content here at the Tiny House Blog.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below

Syndi - July 5, 2016 Reply

I would love to live in this type of community. They obviously work well together, they take care of each other yet give everyone their own privacy and space. This is exactly the type of community I am looking for to park my tiny home.

    Alexis Stephens - July 6, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for sharing Syndi! I truly feel that this kind of community could be created from existing RV parks around the country. Transforming a traditional RV park into an intentional community. Gathering a group of invested community members is definitely key. My dream is to help create a community like this at some point. 🙂

Dale Lorens - July 6, 2016 Reply

If you are interested in a tiny/small home community in a more temperate climate than Las Vegas, check out Village of Wildflowers in Flat Rock, North Carolina. They are creating a tiny/small house, inter-generational community in an old RV park. It’s a fabulous location, just outside Hendersonville and about 15 minutes from Asheville and the airport. I was just there for 2 weeks to try out that size space. I’m sold on the concept AND the Village of Wildflowers.

    Alexis Stephens - July 10, 2016 Reply

    Thanks for sharing Dale! We are happy to hear that the Village is under new management, because of the wonderful potential and current residents.

    sharon walker - September 10, 2016 Reply

    I live in Vegas and would love to see more tiny house communities appear. I don’t need a large home being that I am single and live with my beautiful cat Grace. The movement makes total sense to me.

      Michelle - October 11, 2016 Reply

      Me too, Sharon! I have begun my downsizing, but am having difficulty finding a Tiny House friendly location. I’m beginning to put together a petition to the council for zoning and/or ordinance revisions. Please let me know if you’re interested.

        EvaSara Luna - December 10, 2016 Reply

        Are you starting this petition in Las Vegas??
        I have been planning on building a tiny home for so long now, and I am in the process of looking up all the zoning and building codes and boy is it difficult! I would love to start a community.

Sharon Kramer - July 7, 2016 Reply

Spent a weekend there last October in one of the guest Airstreams. Met some delightful and creative, out-of-the box thinkers. Had a great time!

Kim Contreraz - July 7, 2016 Reply

I would like to be to see this type of community near Grand Rapids, MI. I want to build my own tiny house, but would love to live in a community with like-minded people. Hopefully this kind of community gains traction!

Leslie Lowdon - July 8, 2016 Reply

Hi,
Would love to be part of a community like this, What a great idea, Would love to see something like this in canada on the east or west coast.Love it

Vickey Burnsed - July 8, 2016 Reply

I have 38 acres of land between Savannah and Macon Georgia. It doesn’t have any hookups, but I wonder if there would be interest if I invested that kind of money in it??

YAYA - July 8, 2016 Reply

Wish I could find a place like this to live !

Ann Goldsborough - July 8, 2016 Reply

What a fantastic community! I am planning to go tiny soon and would live to find a tiny house community in northwest Oregon. Getting a tiny house is the easy part. Finding a place to put a tiny house is the hard part. I’m still searching.

    Alexis Stephens - July 10, 2016 Reply

    You are absolutely right; parking is the primary challenge. If you haven’t already check out available parking on TinyHouseCommunity.com and the Tiny House Hosting Facebook group. A few tiny housers have success creating flyers about themselves and their parking needs, and posting around town and online, including CraigsList. Plus don’t forget your local tiny house Meetup group. We are releasing part of 1 of our 3 part educational documentary, Living Tiny Legally, this August. This provides case studies about how a handful of cities have created legal avenues for tiny house placement. Learn more: http://www.tinyhouseexpedition.com/livingtinylegally

Michelle - July 8, 2016 Reply

Would love to live in a tiny home community like this.

Shoshana - July 8, 2016 Reply

Looks like a wonderful community. What a great idea. I hope others are inspired to do the same in other states and countries.

Kyle - July 9, 2016 Reply

I live Las Vegas and want to build/buy a tiny home and would love to be there, but how would I go about trying to see if there is a spot for my home there. How do I get more information?

    Alexis Stephens - July 10, 2016 Reply

    Great question. Potential residents must be recommended via word-of-mouth by current residents.
    If you’re not a member already, check out the Las Vegas Tiny House Meetup group. They might be able to help with a build site and future parking. It’s a very active group led by DIY tiny housers, Jeff & Megan of Room to Spare Tiny House.

Debbie Riley - July 18, 2016 Reply

Oh my gosh, this is our dream community! We live in Vegas and have housemates. We want to build our tiny house and move to a community like this.

Angie Testa - August 6, 2016 Reply

I hope we can get more tiny home community’s in Vegas, because I am ready to go tiny! Just need the spot, I wish I knew someone who could help.

jim - August 20, 2016 Reply

I’d love it. The monthly rent is a bit above my budget, though. If utilities are included that’d be helpful, but not quite enough for me to afford.
Now, if they have spaces available for me to bring a trailer in, for far less per month… yeah!

J D Fowler - August 21, 2016 Reply

I would love to live in such a community HOWEVER, sitting side by side as these are….no! I would love to look out my window without looking in on my neighbor.

Good idea and wish I had a Tiny House!

JJ - August 30, 2016 Reply

Its a business property, not really a residential area. For Las Vegas residents, zoning laws require your home be it tiny or other, to be on a lot of a minimum of 2700-3799 square feet, deepening on community guidelines. (lots size need to be 75 in depth and 36-50 feet wide). Which when your looking at the high pricing for lots here in Vegas, your price for the lot (before building your tiny home), depending on location in the valley would start at around $100k and up. (which kinda of defeats the purpose of a tiny house to get away from a high mortgage). Right now Tiny Homes are a bust here in Vegas. (especially since brand new entry level homes start in the high $100’s, which would cost the same as a Tiny Home/Lot). But theres always an hour away drive to Pahrump if you must have a tiny home.

Jeff Gierson - October 10, 2016 Reply

We live in Miami Fl and have been looking at Tiny Houses for sometime. My wife is a consultant and there is a possibility that she will be offered a 3-6 month position in Vegas. Do you rent out any of the Tiny Houses. Thanks

Lisa Miller - February 20, 2017 Reply

Will be moving to Vegas with my husband and interested in renting out a tiny home or airstream.. How do we find out information on on if this is possible?

    Alexis Stephens - February 20, 2017 Reply

    This is a private community, and unfortunately,you must be recommended by a past or current resident to become a resident.

Pan - March 20, 2017 Reply

My friend and I are both interested in the tiny home movement. We would like to visit and check things out. Is that possible? Do we need an appointment?

Please advise.

Thank you,

P. Meszarfos

Lisa - March 22, 2017 Reply

I would love to live in this tiny house community, how can I do so, very serious about this.

Eydie Cain - March 27, 2017 Reply

I have been interested in the tiny house realisation for over 10 years. I have never wanted more than I need and I love 2 help others. I am a full blown animal LOVER! I live in Ohio and I have always heard going west calling my name. I live on very little. I have disabilities, but I push myself as far as my body will go. Some days it goes far. Somedays it halts. I’m 61 on March 30th. My spirit is much younger. I would like 2 check out this community! Money always seems to be an issue. If I could make it out there would I have a place to lay my head? Pls respond and mark it important! Thanks very much. With a Touch of my Spirit, Eydie Cain. No website, but My FACEBOOK page will tell U about me!

Tim - May 3, 2017 Reply

i’m moving to Vegas early July 2017 and would love information on the tiny house airstream community are their monthly rentals what are the cost I’m single with a cat

    Alexis Stephens - May 5, 2017 Reply

    Potential residents must be recommended via word-of-mouth by current residents.
    Check out the Las Vegas Tiny House Meetup group. They might be able to help you find parking.

Llamalopolis : La petite Vegas "loin" du monde | OpenMinded - May 9, 2017 Reply

[…] Source : Tinyhouseblog.com […]

Kim - May 19, 2017 Reply

I would love too see this in Napa CA .I have wanted a tiny house for a while now the problem is California is not the place, really hard to find a place to put a tiny house ! Any investors out there looking to set something up like this in the Bay area ? It would be great up here in wine country ! or anyone out there leasing land let me know I’m ready !

Amy - May 25, 2017 Reply

I am a young at heart but in challenged body – I would love a place like this!! I’ve been looking into Airstream fulltiming once my daughter os off to college. I am often isolated and crave community. What a beautiful way to live!! I’m formerly super social. But due to life circumstances have become introverted. I rarely comment online to stories I read. This spoke to me!! What a groovy idea. Reminds me of the mindset of the Lil hippie village I grew up in.. maybe one day… Florida could use ideas like this. Many are being pushed out of affording even the basic of housing. Everyone must drive so far for anything and tourism is valued over residents. It feels this way if not wealthy anyway..
love this community living helping being model.. in awe!

Leave a Reply: