The slogan for Living-Las-Vegas.com is “Real Life in the Shadow of the Strip.” These days, the largest shadow cast by anything on the Strip, both metaphorically and in fact, is that cast by City Center. That being the case, how could I not file this report on my experience in City Center?
First, a very important thing that any local resident or visitor should keep in mind this holiday season is that City Center is not really fully open yet. MGM, the developer of the project, naturally wanted to open in time for holiday shopping. But I found that, by following the signs carefully as I drove West on Harmon, I was able easily to get stuck in a place where I was told to back up, turn around, and go away. More or less. Well, okay, I said to myself, I’ll just go park over at Planet Hollywood and walk over. And so I did. In fact, if you don’t mind walking, you’ll have an easier time doing something similar. Bellagio has a tram station that connects the various segments of City Center, so that might be a good place for a lot of people. As luck would have it, I walked past the lobby of the new high rise attached to Planet Hollywood shortly after it opened for the first time. It looks nice, but that’s for another day.
Walking across the pedestrian bridge from East to West you have a good view of the Strip, both North and South. You also have a pretty good view West along Harmon Avenue, into the heart of City Center. If the designers really were going for a look that recalled Manhattan, they managed it along Harmon, plus in a few other spots. The gallery (see the bottom of this page) has pictures of several “New Yorkish” spots I visited. But first, I would like to mention that I am disappointed that pedestrians are still crossing Harmon at street level. I’m pretty certain that a bridge across Harmon on the East side of the Strip would go a long way toward loosening traffic on the Strip during normal times. But, there is a shiny new bridge from East to West, and another bridge spanning Harmon on the West side of the Strip.
Here is the front entrance to Crystals, which is the mall portion of City Center, and not surprisingly, is the primary pedestrian entrance from the Las Vegas Strip. There are a lot of stores not yet open, but there are also a lot of stores offering wonderful things for prices that are reasonable to Oprah Winfrey and Bill Gates. It’s all nice to look at, though. You enter from the Strip on the second level, and immediately you are confronted by a massive sculpture jutting up from below. Others have commented on the amount of public art in City Center, and I have to agree that it is impressive. I’ve always liked public art, so on that score I give this project high marks.
Continuing the Manhattan-like theme, I found the “Pocket Park,” which feels a lot like a small park in New York, and features high-rise views you can’t find anywhere else in Nevada. So far, at least. (I mean views of high rises, of course. The park is on the ground.) The park is just off of the Aria lobby. On the other side of the lobby is the casino. The casino is quite large, although I don’t believe it is the largest one in town. Off of the casino you’ll find the buffet, coffee shop, sports book, and passages down which to walk to other portions of City Center.
The décor struck me as an interesting fusion of modern architecture and art deco. There is a lot of natural light everywhere you go, and the structure of the buildings is evident, but there are no bright colors anywhere. Muted earth tones rule the day. This makes some of the signage tough to find, as the signs tend to blend into the rest of the décor.
So, even though I ask the question myself, do I like City Center? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m looking forward to going back when it’s all up and running. Until then, I have to say it is pretty, and I really like the art everywhere, including some unusual water art on the lower level of Crystals, I don’t like the confusion surrounding getting in to City Center, and there is a lot of walking to do if you visit, even if you valet. Let us, as they say, wait and see what develops.
The Gallery: (click on any photo to open a slide show with captions)