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O.C. Service Firms Winning Big in Vegas

Development: Casino boom has been a boon in time of California slowdown.

December 31, 1996|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

And Lifescapes recently signed a contract to design the outdoor plaza of the $110-million, 2.8-acre Showcase retail center to be built near MGM Grand. The mall will lead visitors into a complex of stores and restaurants featuring a state-of-the-art interactive game arcade and a Coca-Cola memorabilia emporium marked by a 100-foot-tall Coke bottle towering over the strip.

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Costa Mesa architect McLarand, Vasquez & Partners is another local firm riding the Las Vegas express. Partner Carl McLarand says the company recently was selected to help develop a master plan for development of Union Pacific Corp.'s 184-acre property--formerly a railroad freight yard--which lies between the Vegas strip and Interstate 15.

McLarand, Vasquez also has been doing land planning and architecture for Howard Hughes Development Corp.'s residential and business park area just outside Las Vegas.

The city's commercial growth "has been a dream come true for us and a lot of other businesses," says Michael B. Jackson, a graphic artist whose Tustin-based Paintin' Place Inc. has bloomed along with the Las Vegas strip.

For its first 15 years, Paintin' Place "was a nice little business that kept up with inflation." says Jackson. In the last three years, though, the studio has grown from three employees to eight, added a stable of two dozen Southern California artists who subcontract work from Jackson, done a number of overseas projects and doubled its revenue annually.

"Las Vegas is the economic model for the resort and gaming industry all over the world," says casino architect Paul Steelman. "They don't want to look like Las Vegas overseas, but having Las Vegas credentials definitely helps when you are bidding on their jobs. They want to feel secure that you know how to handle the special requirements of casino resort design."

That need has certainly helped Lifescapes. The company's Vegas credentials recently landed it a job creating an indoor version of Utah's Bryce Canyon for a New Jersey casino, and it has done resort and casino work in several overseas markets including South Africa and Thailand, where things are so busy Lifescapes has set up a branch office with 15 employees.

The company's experiences in Las Vegas also led to a major job much closer to home: The company designed the environment for Universal Studios Hollywood's recently opened Jurassic Park adventure ride.

Shortly after the Mirage opened, an executive with the studio tour theme park visited the hotel and was wowed by the tropical rain forest that Lifescapes had crafted there.

'They decided that if we could do that in Las Vegas, we could create the jungle they wanted for their Jurassic Park ride. And we did," Brinkerhoff-Jacobs says.

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