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November 25, 2014

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BIZ BUZZ:

CityCenter signals a change in the very nature of development on the Strip

It is amazing how easy it is for those of us who live in Las Vegas to fail to appreciate the tremendous changes under way on the Strip.

By far the biggest change is taking place on the turf just south of the Bellagio and north of the Monte Carlo, at the development MGM Mirage calls CityCenter.

We’ve heard for a few years now that the project is the most expensive private development in the country, and the original $7 billion cost has crept north of $8 billion.

I have certainly kept my eye on the project and the building of its main hotel, two boutique hotels, three condo-hotel towers and retail center.

Two years ago you couldn’t drive on Frank Sinatra Drive without getting stuck behind a conga line of trucks hauling rocks, and since last year there often seemed to be about 25 cranes working at the site as the buildings grew out of the ground.

But now that we’re about one-and-a-half years away from CityCenter’s opening I think the scale of the project is really starting to sink in.

Although the city has had giant resort towers on its landscape since the Mirage opened in 1989, there was a lot of space between them.

From a distance the Strip looks like a tightly packed collection of towers, but when you are among them or walking from one to the next you realize that the Strip corridor doesn’t come close to matching the density of our biggest cities.

Until CityCenter, that is.

Driving west on Harmon Avenue from Koval Lane, with Planet Hollywood on the right, I was stunned by the size and density of CityCenter.

And amazed by how cool the architecture looks.

In the front and center of the project, rising right next to Las Vegas Boulevard, steel beams that will form the awesome sharp-angled roof of the retail plaza jut out at crazy angles.

Immediately north, more than a dozen floors of the gracefully curved Harmon boutique hotel are already in place.

South of the retail plaza, the two Veer condo-hotel towers are already starting their leaning ascent into the sky, the front tower at about 12 stories, the rear tower a few stories higher.

And south of the Veer towers at the southeast corner of the project, the Mandarin Oriental hotel rises even higher.

Behind the retail plaza, clear reflective glass already covers about 20 floors of the main hotel-casino, with another 10 floors in place waiting to be enclosed.

North of the main hotel is the Vdara tower, a distinctive black and silver condo-hotel that so far is the tallest element of the project.

There’s still some space between the CityCenter towers, but not nearly as much as we’re used to on the Strip.

The next time you have a spare moment, go down to the Strip and take a look at the future of our city.

•••

Last week’s bankruptcy court filing by Tropicana’s parent company was no surprise.

Once New Jersey regulators yanked the Atlantic City Trop’s license it was a foregone conclusion that the company couldn’t meet its obligations.

I’m interested to see how well Tropicana executives and the company’s creditors work together.

I’m sure Trop bosses will push for a debtor-in-possession solution that allows them to reorganize and maintain ownership, but wonder whether creditors might think that the company has proven its incompetence and instead insist on a liquidation of assets, including a sale of Tropicana Las Vegas.

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