Tuesday, Dec. 1, 2009 | 1:50 a.m.
- CityCenter: One man’s concept of a real city (11-29-09)
MGM Mirage has placed its biggest bet ever, an unprecedented $8.5 billion, on its new CityCenter complex – planned to be a city within a city – with residences, hotel towers, gourmet restaurants and an upscale retail and entertainment district.
The urban metropolis will open its first three buildings this week, beginning today, marking nearly 61 months since the announcement of the project.
CityCenter is big in every sense of the word. MGM Mirage says it’s the largest privately funded project in U.S. history, one of the largest LEED-certified developments in the country and the largest single employment opportunity in the history of Las Vegas. CityCenter will house more than 6,800 hotel rooms and condominiums by early next year, with 400 more hotel rooms planned for the end of 2010.
To staff the project, MGM Mirage and joint-venture partner Dubai World hired 12,000 workers from a pool of more than 160,000 applicants. But the completion of CityCenter leaves an estimated 10,000 laborers out of work.
Set on 67 acres between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo, The Vdara Hotel and Spa will be the first to welcome guests. MGM Mirage executives will cut the ribbon on the 57-story, 1,495-suite luxury property at 10 a.m. today.
Vdara’s suites come in one- or two-bedroom variations, ranging from 500 square feet to 2,000 square feet, each featuring gourmet kitchens and washer and dryer units among their amenities.
Other amenities in the non-gaming Vdara Hotel include an 18,000-square-foot spa, Mediterranean restaurant Silk Road and direct access to the Bellagio’s casino floor.
Vdara has partnered with Vanity Fair for its private grand opening celebration tonight with appearances by actor Orlando Bloom, actress Rosario Dawson and photographer Sebastian Copeland. While VIPs will fill the hotel tonight, Vdara won’t welcome its first public guests until Wednesday evening.
Following Vdara’s opening will be the unveiling of the high-end retail and entertainment district, Crystals, on Thursday, then the opening of Mandarin Oriental will be Friday.
Since its November 2004 announcement, CityCenter has faced uncertainty and financial challenges around almost every corner. Over the past five years the project’s funding nearly lapsed, MGM Mirage was at the brink of bankruptcy, building violations were found and six construction workers died on the project, resulting in a one-day walkout of workers in June 2008.
In its initial announcement of CityCenter, MGM Mirage said in a statement that its “dramatic urban development for the new millennium” would include a 4,000-room hotel-casino, three 400-room boutique hotels, 550,000 square feet of shopping, dining and entertainment venues, and 1,650 condo units. The plot of land would be the same size as Rockefeller Center, SoHo and Times Square combined, the company said.
While CityCenter was announced without an official budget, unofficially, executives said the project would cost at least $4 billion. Over the next few years, CityCenter’s budget peaked at $9.3 billion in August 2008, finally settling at $8.5 million.
CityCenter’s budget wasn’t the only plan to fluctuate; the project’s blueprints also changed significantly. After initially increasing the amount of residential space available, MGM Mirage announced in January that the Harmon’s size would be reduced. The plan for the once-49-story Harmon was cut to 28 floors, while 200 condos were eliminated, changing the property to a 400-room and suite hotel.
MGM Mirage recruited a team of architects and designers to bring its vision to life and asserted a commitment to sustainability with plans to achieve high environmental standards in each of CityCenter’s buildings.
The result is six high-rise hotel and condo towers and a retail promenade, all with environmental highlights. Six of CityCenter’s facilities have achieved gold certification from the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program.
CityCenter’s crowning jewel and only gaming property — the 4,004-room Aria Resort and Casino — will round out the month with a Dec. 16 opening. Residential occupancies at Veer Towers will begin January 2010 while the Harmon will open in late 2010.