Anewly opened $4-billion Las Vegas mega-resort will test the city’s recession-racked, tourist-based economy, while concluding years of work for 3,220 tradespeople and construction staff responsible for the 2,995-room, 7-million-sq-ft Cosmopolitan Casino Resort.

The Cosmopolitan was the right hotel-condo-casino at the wrong time, a source says.
Photo: Bill Hughes
The Cosmopolitan was the right hotel-condo-casino at the wrong time, a source says.

Characterized in one media report as the city’s “most expensive debacle,” the bank-owned hotel complex, set to open a year late on Dec. 15, epitomizes Vegas’ real estate boom gone bust. Developers broke ground on the project, originally valued at $1.8 billion, in late 2005 with little cash down. The price tag more than doubled because of owner scope-of-work changes and rising raw materials costs.

The 8.5-acre complex was underwritten with real estate-secured loans based on the property’s prominent Strip-front placement. Cosmopolitan’s footprint nearly fills the entire site and has a dense design that goes 100 ft underground for a five-level, 3,800-space parking garage.

Perini Building Co., a unit of Tutor Perini Corp., Sylmar, Calif., is the project general contractor. Just 48 months ago, Nevada construction employed 150,000 people, a figure that since has plummeted by 70%, according to Las Vegas-based business advisory firm Applied Analysis.

Arquitectonica, Miami, is the design architect, with Friedmutter Group, Las Vegas, as architect-of-record. Excavation created a giant bathtub-like opening supported by 30-in.-thick, 24-ft-wide concrete slurry-wall panels with 2,881 tiebacks, 85-ft-deep.

The valuable site between the Bellagio and CityCenter resorts led to a permanent dewatering system. “The 16-ft-deep water table requires pumping out up to 100,000 gallons of water a day for the life of the complex,” according to Perini project executive Steve DeWees. “It’s the first of its kind in Las Vegas.”

The system is constructed of sump pumps, gravel and different geotextile fabrics as well as eight underground vaults, each measuring 12 ft x 20 ft x 8 ft. Cosmopolitan’s 330,000-sq-ft footprint rises into a 100-ft-tall entertainment podium topped by two 600-ft-tall jagged-shaped blue glass towers. DeSimone Consulting Engineers, New York City, is the structural engineer.

Cosmopolitan’s appearance later changed with new ownership. As the economy sank, lenders demanded a hard- cash commitment from developer Ian Bruce Eichner, who previously had lost two Manhattan buildings to creditors in the early 1990s. Deutsche Bank AG acquired Cosmopolitan from foreclosure for $1 billion in 2008 and tapped The Related Cos., New York City, as project manager. Construction continued, although at a slower pace, as interiors were redesigned twice for “a more commercial look” and to appear “less flashy,” says a project source. New York City-based Rockwell Group designed the final interiors, with Friedmutter Group and Miami-based CAD International.

Cosmopolitan originally offered 2,184 condo-hotel units. But the housing bubble and mortgage crisis triggered lawsuits, prompting Deutsche Bank to offer partial refunds. A 2009 settlement on one tower offered homebuyers 74% of their deposits, followed by a pact in February that, for the other tower, returned the owners 68% of their deposit. A handful of holdouts are pressing their case for full refunds in Clark County District Court.

“In a normal economic environment,” says Grant Govertsen, a principal of Las Vegas–headquartered Union Gaming Group, a market research company, “Cosmopolitan probably would have been a home run and a massive driver for visitation to the city.”