The Cosmopolitan Hotel stands next to the CityCenter in Las Vegas. (Wally Skalij / Los Angeles…)
Reporting from Las Vegas
If you take stock of the Vegas landscape, it's no wonder several Las Vegas clubs are hosting "good riddance to 2010" New Year's Eve parties.
The construction cranes atop the flashy but bankrupt Fontainebleau resort, between the Sahara and the Riviera, haven't moved in months. Opposite the Riviera, plywood-covered fences try to hide the foundations for Echelon, a CityCenter wannabe whose owners have pulled the plug, at least temporarily. And at CityCenter, the multi-billion-dollar hotel/retail behemoth that debuted a year ago, the problem-plagued Harmon Hotel will not open this month as expected. Indeed, the owners have even discussed tearing it down.
Yet as Vegas seeks to close the book on 2010, the 2,995-room Cosmopolitan resort, sandwiched between CityCenter and the Bellagio, is to open its doors Dec. 15, raising this question: Are the owners suicidal or exceedingly savvy?
Because the hotel field is so crowded — Vegas boasts 151,397 rooms — the stakes are high for the new kid in Sin City, and the financiers — a group of German bankers — understand that success of their $3.9-billion property hinges on making the Cosmopolitan stand out.
John Unwin, the hotel's chief executive, describes the goal as "polish without pretense."
"It's polished in that it's in the premium, luxury segment," Unwin said. "It's as nice as anything that you'll see in Las Vegas."
In this neighborhood, nice is a given, but this is different too.
Inside the two tower buildings, one 50 stories and the other 52, visitors will find themselves in one of a dozen settings or environments, depending on what's being displayed on the eight video columns that stretch from floor to ceiling. You might see an autumnal forest where leaves have drifted to the ground or find yourself amid a cascade of bubbles. In another video-created setting, a pair of dancers moves from pillar to pillar, eventually reaching the screens behind the front desk, and you may feel as though you're wheeling your luggage through a ballroom.
In a break from what's become a Vegas tradition, the elevators to the rooms are just a few feet away from reception, negating the need to schlep suitcases through a cavernous casino. In fact, hotel guests who choose not to gamble can attend a convention or eat at the buffet without ever seeing a slot machine or 21 table.
Those who do venture onto the gaming floor will find a three-story bar tucked inside a giant crystal chandelier, plus floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the Strip that eliminate the feeling of being trapped inside a vacuum devoid of time.
"I think we want to give people credit for their intelligence," Unwin said. "I think people will enjoy knowing what time of day it is. And people are going to do what they want to do when they want to do it, not because we tricked them into it."
Another departure: About three-quarters of the guest rooms have a furnished balcony.
"You open your sliding glass door — normally you can't open your window — and you step out onto a terrace that's 6 feet deep and as wide as your room," Unwin said.
The "city" rooms, at 460 square feet, are the only ones without balconies. Upgrading to a studio adds 270 square feet, including the outdoor space. Premium rooms offer a Strip view. Wall-mounted, flat-screen TVs and the latest digital technology are standard. Credit for the livable yet hip feel of the rooms goes to designer David Rockwell, who even thought to include some surprisingly quirky wallpaper in the closets.
The Cosmopolitan also offers a retail component where prices at the 11 stores start at $40 and stop about $400, significant for a neighborhood where shoppers can find three Cartier, four Dior and five Chanel stores. At the CRSVR Sneaker Boutique, high-end rubber soles from Nike and Supra, including limited-edition styles not sold elsewhere, make up much of the inventory. Shoes, said Eric Aguirre (better known to night clubbers as DJ Vice), make the outfit.
"I've always felt that you can wear a plain white T-shirt and just a pair of Levi's, but when you have the right shoes, the shoes are what bring the whole package together," said Aguirre, a partner in the business, which opened its first shop a couple of years ago in Santa Barbara.
Club music, often mixed by live deejays, will be the backdrop to the shopping experience.
"We're going to create the perfect DJ booth where all the deejays that come to Vegas … [are] going to want to jump on and … maybe try out some music they never get to play," he said.
One floor up, on level three is what's being called the "restaurant neighborhood." A choice of eight eateries awaits, including a hidden, Manhattan-style pizzeria and an upscale Greek restaurant, Estiatorio Milos.