A $7 Billion City Within a City by 2010

You have to give Las Vegas its due: It doesn't rest on its development laurels. While SinCity spends countless amounts of advertising dollars each year to lure potential vacationers—more importantly casino customers—it's backing up its marketing efforts with substance. Coming soon will be even more substance, in the form of the most ambitious and expensive project ever to be constructed on The Strip. Travel agents and travelers alike will soon say hello to MGM Mirage's $7 billion CityCenter, a literal city unto itself, being built in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip and dramatically redefining its landscape. The entire project, a collaboration between the MGM Mirage and eight internationally acclaimed architects, will consume some 76 acres of land.

At the mixed-use development's fulcrum will be the 4,000-room, 60-story CityCenter resort tower, which will include a 165,000 square-foot casino. The as-yet-unnamed tower will have a new brand name under the MGM Mirage umbrella. A 400-room Mandarin Oriental—the brand's first property in Las Vegas—gives the development luxury caché, while a host of other rooms at CityCenter will be residences.

The CityCenter development will add dramatically to the Las Vegas skyline

When people aren't sleeping or gambling, they'll be inundated with new shopping and amusement choices in the form of a 500,000-square-foot retail and entertainment space designed by famed architect Daniel Libeskind. To underscore how self-contained the new development is, it will even house its own fire station.

The entire project is reminiscent of the over-the-top mega-projects shaping Dubai; yet this project is taking place on a landscape that is already ripe. Could the project's effect be more detrimental than beneficial? "It will have an effect," says Jay Shapiro, owner of Five Star Travel in Las Vegas. Which way? "Positive," he affirms. Shapiro should know: He sees the germination almost every day, and is excited over its completion. "It's different from everything else on The Strip," he opines. "A first in its combination of apartments, theater, shopping, restaurants and hotels. It's adding more things for more people—almost like a mini-Dubai."

A master bedroom in the 50-story, 1,543-unit Vdara building, a condo-hotel

With land becoming scarcer and more expensive ($25 to $30 million per acre), developers had to come up with ways to best maximize the space. "Instead of building out, the smart thing was to build up," says Jenn Michaels, vice president of public relations for the MGM Mirage. But above all else, CityCenter should provide nuance—a different entity for the some 43 million guests expected to visit Las Vegas in 2010. "CityCenter will give people a reason to come back regularly," Michaels says.

Not only is CityCenter being showered with encomiums for its signature components and design elements, it's also receiving praise for its willingness to embrace and follow environmentally sound building and operating practices. CityCenter is pursuing the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification and promises to follow such green measures as reclaimed water utilization and on-site power generation.

The effect CityCenter—along with other new resort developments—will have on Las Vegas will be striking, according to the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. "Las Vegas currently has roughly $30 billion in new resort development planned or already underway citywide," says Art Jimenez, director of leisure sales for the LVCVA. "Our entire skyline is changing with the addition of large-scale, multi-use projects such as CityCenter, not to mention Las Vegas Sands' Palazzo and Wynn's Encore (both new 1,000-plus-room hotel towers) and the new expansion project slated for the Tropicana. All of this ultimately means more options for our visitors and more reasons for them to make plans to return in the future to see what Las Vegas has added to the landscape." It should be a boon for travel agents as well. "Of course, it also means travel agents will have even more products to offer their clients," Jimenez posits.

CityCenter, in its entirety, is slated to be finished by 2010, but different phases will open on a rolling basis. Phase A, which includes CityCenter's resort-casino, is expected to open in late 2009. The development site will be where the Boardwalk Hotel and Casino once stood—it was razed last May—and on adjoining land between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo hotels.

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