I have become disillusioned by Las Vegas. While some love to revisit the 24/7 city, these days, I much prefer to be at home with a good book. Yes, there are great shows and restaurants, but there's also a limit to the amount of over-stimulation a person can take in a single visit.
One thing that does still fascinate me about Sin City, however, is how the region's developers have imitated the world's greatest cities—New York, Paris, Rome—and turned what was once a dusty desert town into a true destination. And they're not done yet. Last month, I was in Vegas on business twice and was able to visit CityCenter Pavilion, the $25 million sales center for MGM Mirage's $7.4 billion, 76-acre complex under construction between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo casinos. The CityCenter development, which is scheduled for completion in fall 2009, includes a myriad of contemporary high-rises and buildings:
- A yet-unnamed 4,000-room hotel and casino, with a convention center and Cirque du Soleil theatre that will be the flagship of the urban center
- Vdara condo hotel, which has more than 1,500 residential units
- The Harmon Hotel, a boutique 400-room facility that will also house more than 200 condos
- A Mandarin Oriental Hotel with 400 rooms and 227 condos
- Veer Towers, a purely residential complex of 337 condos
A sprawling, 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment complex that will house the first grocery store on the Las Vegas Strip Overall, CityCenter's mixed-use site will add 4,650 hotel rooms and 2,650 residential condos to Vegas in an effort to promote urban living. The project is also seeking LEED certification and is the largest privately funded development in the country.
That's the good news. Yet, as I watched the elaborate video introduction to the development, reviewed the pedigree of the design and development team, and toured the scale model and showrooms, I couldn't help but doubt the feasibility of the multifamily component of the project. When I asked the guide about the sales rates of the condos, she assured me that sales activity was incredibly strong, with many of the towers at least 50 percent sold and two years of marketing still remaining.
The buyers must all be investors, I thought. Would the CityCenter developers be in for a rude awakening if they weren't able to actually close on all of those contracts? And who would take their place in this time of uncertainty and market volatility?
At the same time, It's possible that the market may be on its way to recovery by then—enough so to sustain the community. To some extent, I believe Vegas has some immunity, and the CityCenter will certainly create thousands of new jobs. But the community is also not where those workers will live. And that, alone, concerns me.
By the end of my visit, I was still skeptical of this massive complex. I was also a little bit awestruck. There is something intriguing about the grandeur and scale of the site. Perhaps it will redefine urban living. Perhaps it will become the ultimate Vegas destination. And if successful, perhaps it will give me hope in Las Vegas again.
Shabnam Mogharabi, Editor