Another Vegas Monolith Opens Amid Diminished Expectations
A new $4-billion megaresort will test Las Vegas� recession-racked tourist-based economy, but, perhaps more significantly, it concludes years of work for 3,220 tradesmen and construction staff responsible for the 2,995-room, 6.96-million-sq-ft Cosmopolitan Casino Resort at 3708 S. Las Vegas Blvd. Perini Building Co., a unit of Tutor Perini Corp., Sylmar, Calif., is the general contractor. Just 48 months ago, Nevada construction employed 150,000 people � a figure that since plummeted by 70%, reports Las Vegas-based business advisory firm Applied Analysis.
The bank-owned Cosmopolitan, which opens a year late on Dec. 15, epitomizes Vegas� real estate boom gone bust. An Ian Bruce Eichner-led group broke ground on the development, originally valued at $1.8 billion, in late 2005 with little cash down. The price-tag later more than doubled from owner scope-of-work changes and rising raw material costs. The complex, on 8.5 acres, was mostly underwritten with real estate-secured loans due to the property�s prominent Strip-front placement. Cosmopolitan consequently has near zero-lot lines and a dense design that goes 100-ft underground for a five-level, 3,800-space parking garage. 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 slurry concrete wall panels with 2,881 tiebacks, 85-ft.-deep. The valuable real estate 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,� Perini�s project executive Steve DeWees says. �It�s the first of its kind in Las Vegas.�
The system is constructed of sump pumps, gravel and different geo-textile fabrics as well as 8 underground vaults each measuring 12-ft by 20-ft by 8-ft. Cosmopolitan�s 330,000-sq-ft footprint rises into 100-ft-tall entertainment podium topped by two 600-ft-tall jagged-shaped blue glass hotel towers. The project�s appearance later changed along with new ownership.
As the economy went south, lenders demanded more hard cash commitment from Eichner who had previously lost two Manhattan buildings to creditors in the early 1990s, including the 75-story CitySpire Center at 150 W. 56th St. and the 45-story Bertlesmann Building at 1540 Broadway Ave. Lead lender Deutsche Bank AG acquired Cosmopolitan from foreclosure for $1-billion in the summer of 2008, and tapped New York-based The Related Cos. as project manager. Construction work continued, albeit at a slower pace, as interiors were redesigned twice for �a more commercial look,� says a project source. Rockwell Group, New York, designed the final interiors, with Friedmutter and Miami-based CAD International.
Cosmopolitan made other changes. The project originally offered 2,184 condo-hotel units that buyers could rent-out as investments. But the housing bubble and mortgage crisis triggered lawsuits, prompting Duetsche Bank to offer partial refunds. A February East Tower settlement offered 68% percent of homebuyer deposits, which ranged from $115,000 to $350,000 per unit, depending on size and location; it follows last year�s similar pact on the West Tower that returned 74.4% of deposits. A handful of homebuyer holdouts are still pursuing full refunds and pressing their case in Clark County District Court. About 150 of those disgruntled homebuyers, which have been banned from the grand opening festivities, plan on picketing in front of the Cosmopolitan sidewalk on Dec. 15.
�In a normal economic environment,� says Grant Govertsen, principal of Las Vegas�based Union Gaming Group, a market research firm, �Cosmopolitan probably would have been a home run and a massive driver for visitation to the city.�