Las Vegas' big gamble

Sharon McHugh
09 Nov 2009

$8.5 billion CityCenter to open in December

Finishing touches are being made to ready MGM Mirage’s new blockbuster development, CityCenter, for its Las Vegas debut in December. The $8.5 billion project, part resort part urban development, is the largest commercial construction project in the US and, as one writer put it, "the biggest thing to hit Las Vegas since the slot machine". But as the up-scale project prepares to open its doors, it faces enormous challenges and an uncertain future.

Earlier this year, CityCenter battled back from the brink of bankruptcy, ultimately rescued by a global effort- eight banks from around the world that infused it with a $1.8 billion dose of confidence. But its troubles are far from over. Last week, MGM Mirage posted a $750 million third quarter loss, evidence it is still reeling from the massive investment. And, if that news wasn't distressing enough, the project will make its debut in the face of record high vacancy rates and drastically discounted hotel rooms. For a project selling luxury when consumers are bargain hunting, it will indeed be challenging if not also tough going for CityCenter to stay afloat. But its owners are betting the project's uniqueness will be the very thing that saves it.

CityCenter is a project like no other- a 67-acre playground for the moneyed set rivaling the scale of a city. Located between the Monte Carlo and Bellagio resorts, the project brings a new level of luxury and sophistication to the Vegas Strip and relies on brand name architecture, luxury goods and an impressive collection of fine art for its cachet. The complex features signature towers that will give the city a new skyline. An angular retail entertainment structure, dubbed Crystals, designed by Daniel Libeskind with interiors designed by David Rockwell anchors the complex. Around it are situated six luxury condominium hotel towers designed by Helmut Jahn, Norman Foster, Rafael Vinoly and KPF’s Mandarin Oriental hotel development. In the center of the complex is Aria, a 61-storey tower designed by Cesar Pelli that contains a 4,400 -room casino hotel. Filling out the grounds are plazas, fountains and artworks by Henry Moore, Claes Oldenburg and Frank Stella among others.

Another plus point for the scheme is its high sustainability credentials across the development with KPF achieving a LEED® Silver performance goal and Libeskind's Crystals, achieving a LEED®+ Gold Core & Shell certification from the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC). The achievement makes a record-breaker of the development which is now the largest retail district in the world to have reached this sustainable goal post..

Las Vegas insiders are optimistic about the wider project's future. Steve Wynn, President of Wynn Resorts recently told Reuter’s analyst, Deena Beasley “We hope it grows the market. But so far the talk has been about its problems, instead of what an incredible, unusual place it will be.” Some,like Anthony Curtis, president of and long time Vegas observer say, “If the economy wasn’t like it is now (CityCenter) would be the most amazing thing Vegas has ever seen- and very, very successful. But opening in the jaws of this animal is going to be tough.”

Sharon McHugh
US Correspondent

Read more on Daniel Libeskind's Crystals

Key Facts

United States
Urban design

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team