Project City Center

City Center is a “mixed-use” development located right in the heart of the World Famous Las Vegas Strip. Mixed-use is a term used to describe a development that has multiple uses in one project. Famous examples include Americana at Brand in Glendale, and Santana Row in San Jose, both having high priced residential condominiums and apartments perched above ground floor shops and restaurants.

Americana at Brand Glendale, CA

From a planning perspective, mixing uses has many benefits including the convenience of decreased distances to relevant destinations, increased density for public transit, shared parking, etc.

MGM's City Center (Mandarin Oriental (left), Aria (center), Veer Towers (right)

With Project City Center, MGM Resorts International (formerly MGM Mirage) created a development that is mixed-use in name only. City Center is comprised of 6 entities: Aria Resort & Casino, Mandarin Oriental Hotel & Residences, Vdara Hotel & Spa, Veer Towers, Crystals Retail & Entertainment District, and the Harmon Boutique Hotel. According to MGM Resorts International CEO Jim Murren, City Center is “a world-class urban gathering place for [Las Vegas] residents.” Murren set out to create, as the project’s name would imply, a city within a city complete with its own mass transit system, residences, fire station, shops, and restaurants. What City Center sorely lacks however is convenience. Who would want to live in a development where they would have to fight through some of the worst traffic in North America just to get a carton of milk?

Crystals (far left), Veer Towers (center), Mandarin Oriental (right), City Center Self-Parking Garage (far right)

City Center’s retail and entertainment component, Crystals is 500,000 square feet of decadent shopping, dining, and entertainment with outposts from Louis Vitton, Gucci, Eva Longoria, Tom Ford, etc. Could they not manage to fit a Whole Foods or a Gelson’s into any of those spaces?

Vacant Retail Space at Crystals (photographed by: fongfong)

Westfield’s San Francisco Centre in San Francisco, CA is a high-end retail and entertainment destination, much like Crystals at City Center, and they managed to have a Bristol Farms grocer as a tenant (and they don’t even have a residential component)!!!

For someone who has a background in urban planning, Murren and MGM have created a mixed-use development that manages to turn its back on mass transit. There are no RTC stops located on property (the closest stop is Bellagio, which is quite a walk away). Also, if City Center were designed to be a “world-class urban gathering place for Vegas residents,” why is it that the most convenient access point for locals (via Harmon Avenue) lacks access to the project’s only self-parking garage?

Vdara Condo Hotel

City Center also doesn’t fit the mixed-use ideal of decreasing distances to relevant destinations. In an ideal mixed-use development, residents could potentially work at the same property, thus eliminating the need to drive to work. At City Center, residential units can cost nearly half a million dollars for a studio, which is out of reach for many, if not most of the development’s employees. This created the need for management to construct a large employee parking structure to serve the employees who must now commute to work adding to emissions and traffic, further degrading the urban environment.

Now don’t get me wrong, City Center is a beautiful development with buildings designed by some of the worlds most renowned architects. I have personally stayed at Aria every single time I’ve visited Las Vegas since the resort opened back in December 2009. If Murren were to proclaim that City Center is a “city themed” project on the Strip then I would have no argument, but for MGM to think that pocket parks, and public art pieces, create a true “urban gathering place,” then I would pose to him this simple question…..

City Center Las Vegas (photographed by: fongfong)

City Center Las Vegas (photographed by: fongfong)

City Center Las Vegas (photographed by: fongfong)

……”where is everybody?”


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