Over the last two decades Las Vegas has evolved its image significantly beyond slots, blackjack, and showgirls. Major land owners have created family-oriented themed developments, luxury retail, and restaurants. Still, vibrant public spaces and walkable streets don’t spring to mind when visitors think of Sin City. That may begin to change thanks to efforts by MGM Resorts, New York–based architects and planners Cooper, Robertson & Partners, and landscape architecture firm !melk. The team is bringing the first public park to the Strip, along with streetscape improvements and new street-level retail and dining.
“What have I learned from Las Vegas?” asked !melk principal Jerry van Eyck, evoking Robert Venturi, Denise Scott-Brown, and Steven Izenour’s famous study. “That it’s completely determined by the market, but the market itself keeps changing.” In the early days, hotels and casinos were oriented inward, with elaborate signage and decoration applied to the outside, with the hopes of attracting drivers on the Strip. Today, many visitors arrive looking for a more pedestrian-oriented experience, hoping to catch a show, eat in a restaurant, drink with friends, maybe hit some slots, and grab a hangover coffee the next morning, all possibly in different venues.
Located just south of the new City Center development, the project will transform a private road and parking lots into a new landscape—totaling nearly 32 acres—adjacent to a new 20,000-square-foot arena, designed by Populous. Within the highly privatized realm of the Strip, the park will add a new dimension to the life of the city. “The big companies have come to realize that public amenities add to the value of their properties,” said van Eyck.
The design will include mosaic sidewalks in beige marble, evoking desert sands and stones. Mesquite trees and other desert plants, requiring minimal irrigations, will soften the area and provide some shade. Large sculptural shade canopies will provide additional passive cooling. The road traversing the site will bend to the north, creating a larger plaza/park leading up to the arena. The drive-up porte-cochere of the Monte Carlo hotel will face the new park. New dining and retail options, including a Shake Shack, will line the New York, New York hotel, providing an active frontage to the new public space.
MGM owns several additional blocks along the Strip, so depending on the success of this redesign it could be the first phase of a larger remake.
“Las Vegas is about selling illusions,” said van Eyck. “We like the challenge—almost a contradiction in terms—of creating something authentic in Las Vegas.”