Las Vegas is at it again

May 29, 2007 5:40 AM

Last week’s announcement that the New Frontier will make way for a $5 billion complex with a replica of The Plaza as its centerpiece underscores the notion that Las Vegas is at it again: The Strip continues to evolve, making itself bigger, taller, classier and more cosmopolitan.

But unlike the growth spurt of the 1990s, hotels are being designed not merely to scream for attention but to actually complement each other.

For instance, MGM’s Project CityCenter, a $7 billion, seven-building complex that’s currently rising from the desert but is still more than two years from opening, will feature a 21st-century urban environment, albeit an extremely expensive one. The cheapest studio condos will be in the $500,000 range, but many units will be in the millions.

"By bringing great architects to Las Vegas, we are developing a much more global view of how people will live and be entertained 30, 40 years from now, rather than what’s hot right now," MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman told the Philadelphia Enquirer.

In order to keep tabs on the evolving Strip, here’s a summary of projects currently in the works and when they’re expected to be completed:

September 2007

Planet Hollywood: The makeover of the Aladdin, which opened in 2000 at a cost of $1.4 billion, is nearing completion, and the property is scheduled for a grand opening in late September.

The casino’s exterior has been resurfaced to a cream-colored sleekness. Inside, the giant genie’s lamp is mercifully gone, and the decor is redone in geometrics.

The resort still figures to be an upper mid-market player in its pricing, with remodeled rooms inspired by Hollywood movies and familiar eateries such as P.F. Chang’s and Alfredo of Rome.

Late 2007

Palazzo: The Venetian, a fanciful rendition of its Italian counterpart, is getting an addition that will be both separate from and joined to the original property.

The expansion will have its own tower of suites and its own casino, covering about 100,000 square feet. But it will not sport the faux Italian Renaissance style that distinguishes the Venetian. Instead, the motif is advertised as featuring Italian accents with Asian influences.

The Palazzo’s signature feature will be a 60-foot, glass-domed lobby with a towering fountain, and it will connect to the Venetian through an octagonal passage that will also have a glass dome. The two hotels will have about 30 restaurants.

February 2008

Trump International: Donald Trump’s condo-hotel tower, west of the New Frontier differs from other high-profile projects in that it will not have a casino.

But at 64 stories, and with Trump’s name emblazoned across the top (much as rival Steve Wynn’s signature decorates his own luxury casino across the street), the golden high-end high-rise will be prominent on the new Vegas skyline.

Early 2009

Encore: Wynn was planning an expansion of his 50-story, curved, bronze-colored resort even before he opened the doors in 2005.

Budgeted at $2.1 billion, the new hotel tower, Encore, will have more than 2,000 rooms, from executive suites to duplex sky villas and penthouses. There will be a 72,000-square-foot casino, additional restaurants, nightclubs, swimming pools, and retail stores.

Late 2009

Project CityCenter: Unlike other stand-along hotels, CityCenter seeks to create a neighborhood of sophistication, where its visitors and residents will stroll among seven buildings, to eat, shop and be entertained. Five high-rises will be devoted to guest rooms, residential condo or condo-hotel units.

The modern buildings include the Veer Towers, an aptly named pair of 37-story, inclining glass high-risers.

An entertainment and retail district will front Las Vegas Boulevard, with some shops, such as a gourmet grocery, catering to the resort’s residential population.

The largest structure — a 61-story, 4,000-room centerpiece tower — will be more conventional by Las Vegas standards, meaning it will include a massive casino, 18 restaurants, six bars and lounges, an 1,850-seat theater, convention center, spa, fitness center, salon, and four-pool swimming area.

Altogether, CityCenter will have about 7,600 living spaces on 76 acres. The resort will have its own public transit system — a tram that will link to MGM Mirage resorts Bellagio to the north and Monte Carlo to the south.

2010

Echelon Place: Boyd Gaming Corp.’s $4 billion project on site of the old Stardust has some similarities to CityCenter.

For instance, Echelon Place with have about 5,300 high-end guest rooms in five hotels of varying styles, including Shangri-La, a Delano and a Mondrian. The largest hotel, the Echelon Resort, will have about 2,600 rooms in one tower and 700 rooms in a suites tower.

It also will also have a huge casino, dozens of restaurants and entertainment venues, a shopping promenade, and a convention center.

But, unlike CityCenter, there are no condos on the drawing board. Still, there are about 20 acres of the total 87 that could be used for that purpose.