Tuesday, March 1, 2011 | 1:50 a.m.
When Deutsche Bank opened the Cosmopolitan on the Strip in December, misinformed tourists and some Las Vegas residents mistakenly grouped the new resort with MGM Resorts International’s CityCenter complex next door.
It was easy to see why. The tall, glass towers wedged between Bellagio and CityCenter appeared to be part of the $8.5 billion resort development that opened a year earlier.
But MGM Resorts wanted Strip passers-by to know exactly where their competitors’ property ended and theirs began. To stand out, the company placed a not-so-subtle building wrap on the dormant Harmon hotel with arrows and bold letters stating, “The center of Las Vegas is just around the corner.”
The new signage is part of some fine-tuning CityCenter has done in the last few months to help guests maneuver their way through the urban-like development.
The adjustments aren’t major structural or design changes, but smaller tweaks in response to customer feedback and habits. Executives called for changes to some of the interior and exterior signage throughout the development, added new landscaping and swapped out a few of the food and beverage offerings.
Bill McBeath, president and chief operating officer of Aria, said CityCenter suffers from a lack of signage on the Strip, but the building wrap on the unfinished Harmon helps to fill the void.
“We were finally going to have our pedestrian walkway and north-south traffic on the west side of the Strip with the Cosmopolitan opening,” McBeath said. “We wanted to take that building and communicate to people as they walk over that bridge that you are at CityCenter now.”
Even before Cosmopolitan opened, architecture critics and urban planners criticized CityCenter for not standing out among its flashier neighbors. They called its main entrance cold and unappealing, noting that the cluster of high-rises can be intimidating to tourists walking the Strip.
To soften CityCenter’s façade of mostly glass and concrete, McBeath said crews added new landscaping, taking out some of the stonework and replacing it with planter beds.
- Design challenges leave passers-by passing CityCenter by (11-28-2010)
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- CityCenter unveils financing program for condo buyers (12-9-2009)
- CityCenter’s Mandarin Oriental makes Vegas debut (12-4-2009)
The company also removed trees near the “pocket park” between Aria and Crystals, which blocked views of guests trying to look into or out of the hotel-casino.
McBeath, who previously managed other MGM Resorts properties such as the Bellagio and the Mirage, said the changes at CityCenter are typical of a resort in its opening months.
“When you are looking at something on plans and one-dimensionally — especially when you are designing 18 million square feet of space like we did — until you see it three-dimensionally, you don’t always understand how everything is going to work together,” he said.
When designing Aria, McBeath said it was envisioned the casino floor would be a little dimmer and sexier, but workers heard complaints from guests after opening that the casino floor was too dark. The company installed new lighting in response.
“Until you see the final product of what you intended to build, you don’t really understand all the different relationships between all the finishes and materials,” he said.
Also inside Aria, McBeath said executives noticed that the resort’s interior signage wasn’t as easy for guests to read as they had hoped. The resort replaced about 80 teak wood signs with a more modern, glass-like design that had improved readability.
“People would be standing within 20 feet of a sign to the buffet or the casino cage and they just didn’t read well,” McBeath said. “This building is extremely large, and it is key for people to be able to get where they are going without having to ask someone.”
Aria executives also decided to swap out the modern furnishings in some of the resort’s public spaces for more comfortable furniture pieces. At the View Bar in Aria’s lobby, McBeath said the hard angles of the original furnishings weren’t welcoming to guests. They replaced the boxy white furnishings with plush purple chairs and couches.
The old furnishings, along with other fixtures and accessories from several CityCenter properties, were sold last week at a public auction.
This week brings another change to CityCenter that condo owners have hoped for since purchasing units at the development. A small grocery store, Market Café, opened Tuesday at the Vdara hotel-condo, which will allow guests and owners to better utilize their in-room kitchens.
McBeath described the Market Café as a concept similar to the gourmet grocery chain Dean & Deluca, often located in posh urban areas in cities like Washington, D.C., and New York. Guests will be able to pick up prepared items like sandwiches and salads, as well produce, frozen foods and liquor.
In light of the store opening, Vdara will be shutting its only restaurant, Silk Road, citing a lack of demand from guests.
“Unfortunately, it really wasn’t consistent with what the guests at Vdara wanted. They want friendlier, faster food in a more casual setting,” McBeath said.
The restaurant will close March 8 with no immediate plans to fill the space.