Archive for May, 2010


Sunday, May 23rd, 2010

If you recall, in my blog of July 19th, 2009, HARD TIMES, HELL – JAMMIN’ DOWN FREMONT STREET, I bemoaned $30 Billion of stalled hotel/casino projects out on the Strip. I’m saddened to tell you that the situation in May of 2010 is not much improved. Ten months later, and putting aside the “For Sale” sign (your bid as good as anyone’s) hanging over that hulking blue glass multi-billion sink hole, better known as the Fontainebleau, there appears to be one bright spot in the rusting construction mess out there on the Strip.

Several weeks ago, on a quick visit to Vegas, I took the Deuce bus south down Las Vegas Boulevard (the Strip) out to the sprawling 16,797,000 square foot City Center Complex. It’s artfully packed into 76 acres between I-15 and the Strip. Surrounded by the Monte Carlo on the South, the Bellagio and Cosmopolitan Towers on the North, this City Center lies not in downtown Las Vegas, but directly across the Strip from the Planet Hollywood Resort and Miracle Mile Shops. The Complex is the prime privately funded hotel/residence/casino project anywhere in the world today. It contains over 6000 rooms and residence apartments and holds a (believe it or not) monstrous 160,000 square foot  casino, any number of swimming pools (at ground and upper levels) in seven splendid high-rise towers. One of them, the Vdara, soars 57 stories into the Las Vegas sky; a pair of them on the Strip side (the Veer towers) tilt crazily at opposed angles. I’m not kidding: to the eye, the cross-canted towers look like two decks of cards resting uneasily on the felt of a Pai Gao table!

I doesn’t matter that the fathers of this outre creation – MGM-Mirage (Kirk Kerkorian) and Dubai World (a gathering of oil rich Sheiks) – have been at financial odds ever since they became partners midway through the construction. Nor does it matter that both have been experiencing their own corporate hardships in this most harsh of financial climes. What matters is that together they rolled out the welcome mat to the public on December 16th, 2009. And, in their unfinished Complex, it doesn’t matter that you will be retracing your footsteps down a lot of dead-end corridors, climbing a goodly number of stairs, and in general wandering without guidance (what the hay, everyone in the place looks lost!..) through this unearthly wonderland. The thing that matters is that all the money, all the architects, the arguing equity holders, and all those suffering construction workers (six died in the construction tumult) have brought this strange and wonderful creature into the world! Yes – from a once impossible mess – it has ultimately burst from the desert floor in a fantastic explosion of aluminum and stainless steel.

Entering the City Center Complex, on foot or in a vehicle, is the nearest thing to an out-of-body experience you will ever feel without having one!

It’s not easy to find your way in. But believe me when I tell you it will be even more difficult finding your way back out. I don’t believe I observed a right angle anywhere. The interior of Crystals, the retail and dining center, is stark, white, and gives you the feeling of having floated onto another planet. The connecting passageways and building angles, structure to structure, are amorphous. Armed with two handouts from a smiling young Aria guide I found deep in the heart of the “thing,” after two full hours of wandering, I failed to find my way back out to the Strip. I was about to climb into a cab floating by (off the Harmon Circle?), when I spotted a familiar corridor and realized I was back in Crystals at the place I’d entered the Complex.

Before I leave you, let me warn the intense shoppers among you – bring money, lots of it. Crystals features back-to-back, side-by-side, mouth watering retailing: Louis Vuitton, H. Stern, Bulgari, VanCleef & Arpels, and…well, I’m sure you get the idea. Should you tire, rooms at the 61 story Aria run from $159 to $799, suites starting at $425. Before the Harmon Hotel was cut to half its size, the high end price for a condo was put at $10 million per. I don’t mean to scare you…not at all.

Oh, I should have mentioned that looking at the 40 million dollars of paintings and sculpture scattered around the 76 acre Complex is absolutely free. Now, there…that wasn’t really so bad, was it?


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