The last remaining undeveloped parcel in the heart of the Las
Vegas Strip is about to go very vertical.
MGM Mirage boasts that its just-announced Project CityCenter
will create a “dazzling vertical city in the heart of Las Vegas.”
Set for a late 2009 opening, the mixed-use development will rise on
66 acres of prime Strip real estate between the Bellagio and Monte
J. Terrence “Terry” Lanni, chairman and CEO of MGM Mirage, told
reporters at a press conference last month that Project CityCenter,
at $5 billion and 18 million square feet, will be the largest,
privately financed project in U.S. history.
“Project CityCenter represents what we feel is a significant new
direction for our city and our company,” Lanni said. “With this
world-class development, Las Vegas is on the fast track to becoming
a major urban center in the western United States.”
MGM Mirage assembled a dream team of celebrity designers,
architects and property managers who can be expected to add some
steel-and-glass sophistication to the Strip’s glitz-and-neon
Cesar Pelli, responsible for Kuala Lumpur’s Petronas Towers,
will design the property’s stand-out feature, a 60-story,
4,000-room hotel tower, casino and convention center.
Rafael Vinoly, designer of the high-tech modern Tokyo International
Forum, and James Cheng, responsible for much of Vancouver’s
skyline, will design the 1,640 units of luxury condominiums and
In sync with the Strip’s increasing reliance on non-gaming
sources of revenue, the development will include at least one hotel
sans casino. This so-called “younger lifestyle” property will
anchor one end of the property’s 1,200 feet of frontage on Las
Vegas Boulevard, said Robert H. Baldwin, president and CEO of
Mirage Resorts. A five-star luxury hotel will anchor the opposite
end, Baldwin said.
Mandarin Oriental, not currently active in Las Vegas, will
manage the luxury hotel, to be designed by Ehrenkrantz, Eckstut
& Kuhn Architects, whose works include New York’s Battery Park
City and Los Angeles’ Gateway Center. The Mandarin Oriental
property will include 100 resort residences.
Baldwin said the “lifestyle” hotel will be managed under an
agreement with Andrew Sasson of the Las Vegas-based Light Group.
Sasson’s company runs the trendy Light nightclub, Fixx restaurant
and Caramel bar in the Bellagio. Mist Lounge at Treasure Island and
the Jet nightclub at the Mirage resort-hotel are also managed by
the Light Group.
MGM Mirage’s vision for this new urban megaproject squares with
efforts to remake the Strip into a place where people want to live
and work rather than just indulge in Las Vegas’ traditional
offerings gambling, food and fun.
Lanni said that MGM Mirage originally looked at hotel-casinos
and other traditional uses for the 66 acres, which Mirage Resorts
brought into its merger with MGM. But after looking ahead to what
Las Vegas will be like in 2010 and beyond, Lanni added, “the
escalating real estate value of the land as well as surging
customer demand for new lifestyle experiences demanded that we
explore a new approach.”
MGM Mirage spokesperson Yvette Monet said that it was too early
to discuss revenue-generating opportunities for travel agents in
the residential properties. The project is currently at the
midpoint of a 20-month design process.
But longtime Las Vegas travel agent Leo May guessed that at
least some of the condo units would be made available to the public
as part of a rental pool.
“It would seem that there would be a high percentage of absentee
ownership with this type of project and I suspect the hotel would
offer a program to put them into the rental pool when they’re not
in use,” May said.
Such rental units would probably be offered on a nightly rather
than weekly basis, he added.
“However, they’re high-end units so whether or not people need
to put them into a rental program is something else,” he added.
May is CEO of America’s Travel Companies, which offers services
to travel agents primarily from outside Las Vegas. In regards to
hotel rooms, May said they have more “additions to the high-end
room inventory here in Las Vegas.”
“Each project, of course, appears to be attempting to outdo the
previous one,” he said.
Las Vegas’ Manhattanization is under way. Donald Trump’s
64-story Trump International Hotel and Tower, across from Wynn Las
Vegas, is apparently sold out. Prices started at mid $600,000.
Sales are reportedly brisk at the 40-story Residencies at MGM Grand
Off the Strip, west of the Hard Rock Hotel is the
Barcelona-inspired Las Ramblas, in which actor George Clooney is an
investor. Save your money. Reservation deposits start at $25,000
for a studio.