CityCenter, from the future
By Kim Da-ye
In the middle of the Las Vegas Strip that resembles a theme park for adults with an Eiffel Tower, a volcano and a mini Statue of Liberty are high-rise glass towers that seem to have been teleported from Wall Street, New York.
Three hotels, a condominium and a shopping mall make CityCenter, a 1.56 million square meter urban complex built by MGM Resorts International.
The complex, a 50-50 joint venture between MGM Resorts and Middle East investment firm Dubai World, opened in December 2009 after its construction phase survived the global financial crisis in 2008.
In many ways, CityCenter represents what Las Vegas wasn’t.
First, among the five major structures, Aria is the only building with a casino that counts for less than 1 percent of CityCenter’s space.
Vdara Hotel & Spa, a non-smoking, condo-type hotel, focuses on the spa while another non-smoking building, Mandarine Oriental Las Vegas, adds more luxurious rooms to the complex.
Veer Towers are residential buildings with 674 condominiums, and Crystals, the centerpiece of CityCenter in terms of design, is a shopping mall.
Second, the buildings do not follow any particular themes but are examples of well-designed modern architecture. They may not attract those who expect spectacles such as the Bellagio’s giant water fountain, Wynn Las Vegas’ flamboyant interiors or the Venetian’s artificial canals with gondolas. But the buildings are relatively safe from one big risk in Vegas _ going out of style.
Las Vegas has a long history of old hotels being demolished and new buildings built on the same spots.
The buildings including the Desert Inn and the Aladdin were literally blown up, and the real implosion of the Landmark Hotel and Casino was even recorded as a scene of Tim Burton’s movie Mars Attacks!
Bo Bernhard, a professor at the hotel school of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, says that he does not expect buildings to be blown up anymore. He said that along with CityCenter, the ongoing renovation of the Mirage, the resort famous for its artificial volcano that MGM Resorts bought from resorts genius Steve Wynn, represents the new generation of construction in Las Vegas.
Third, and most importantly, CityCenter is the largest green project in North America, according to MGM Resorts. For a city located in the middle of a desert, going green may make sense, but consumption of electricity and water has been traditionally excessive here.
All five buildings in CityCenter have received certificates of Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) from the U.S. Green Building Council. Among four rates ranging from “certified” to “platinum,” all of them were rated “gold,” the second highest.
CityCenter generates electricity on its own using natural gas, and heat emitted from the process boils water provided to each hotel room. Solar energy was considered at the design phase, but proved to be impractical, Cindy Ortega, the senior vice president of the corporate sustainability of MGM Resorts, said.
Crystals, a shopping mall that hosts only top-tier brands including Louis Vuitton and Prada, does not have any air conditioning. Pipes in which cold water circulates are instead built into the floor, keeping the lower level of the air cool. This way, the energy to keep the air cool near the ceiling where visitors have no contact with will be saved.
In procuring building materials, Ortega also made sure no wallpaper, furniture or moldings contained formaldehyde, a toxic chemical used in glue and the paint has a low level of volatile organic compound (VOC), another type of chemical can harm humans.
Jim Murren, CEO and chairman of MGM Resorts, regarded as the visionary of the CityCenter project, says that a large-scale green project in Las Vegas would never have happened 10 years ago.
While Murren expects the conservation of water and power to bring returns over a long period of time, he stresses, “More importantly, it was the right thing to do.” He added that Aria’s convention center is now a preferred choice among eco-conscious U.S. companies on the Fortune 500 list.
“If we didn’t think this is the city of future, we wouldn’t have been able to do it,” Ortega said.