Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Palazzo construction

Last week we went for a lunchtime walk over to the Fashion Show Mall. Those photos will come later, after I take some time to work on the photos. I usually don’t have to do much with the pics I put here; just bring them into Photoshop, adjust contrast and lightness, crop and resize. The difficult part is picking out the ones to use – usually the shots that I really like end up not being in the camera. Today I thought I’d bring you back to the Strip and show some things that you will not see if you don’t come to Vegas this summer.

There are lots of construction projects currently going on here in town. I like to watch the work progressing – from an empty lot or old building to a big hole in the ground to steel to a finished project to an open casino. Most projects here go up FAST. It usually takes under a year from start of construction to completion of project – after all, once a decision is made money is being lost by not having that new place open. So managers do not mind spending for shift differential by having construction proceeding 24 hours a day.

My favorite story is how Steve Wynn paid to have an entire new golf course (back when it was the ‘in’ thing for each Strip hotel to have a golf course behind it) covered in sod rather than wait for grass to grow from seed. Do you know how big an 18 hole golf course is? Anyway, supposedly the cost of the sod was totally recovered within the first six months because of the increase in business and use of the course. Now the only golfing on the strip left is behind Wynn’s place, the old Desert Inn course, and even that one is slowly being eaten away by new construction projects. Land along here has become too valuable to waste on grass.

So here is the current closest project that I see every day. It’s the new Palazzo Tower complex alongside the Venetian Hotel. It will add 3000 rooms to the Venetian’s current 4,000, bringing the Venetian up from sixth place to being the world’s largest hotel. The new area will also double the length of the inside second floor canal, and also double the shopping space alongside. There will be seven new swimming pools up on the third floor roof, along with more restaurants and entertainment space. And of course the casino floor will be doubled as well. In anticipation of a good summer, and also following the trend of other hotels, one of the current pools upstairs has gone topless and upscale. The female guests, not the pool: the pool already is outside and topless. It’s more of the move away from kids (who don’t gamble much) and back to the old adult oriented days.

You can go see the current Venetian site, and look at how fancy everything is now. There is also a page for the new Palazzo. This is what it will look like when completed:

Construction started about a year ago, so I guess it is proceeding slowly by Vegas standards. When walking through the basement last week I found a countdown clock, indicating opening day was projected at September 21. Looking at how much there is left to do does amaze me at what they will be accomplishing so quickly.

This is the view from the pedestrian bridge between the Wynn and Fashion Show, looking south.

The new Palazzo is off to the left, with one of the current Venetian towers behind it. The point in the center is the clock tower out in front. You can see the affect that the construction has on the Strip itself – because it is getting closer to completion the walkway and barrier has moved from the property line out into the right lane of Las Vegas Boulevard, dropping traffic down from three lanes to two and really slowing car travel. Desert Inn, crossing the above picture, was already cut down a lane, but there too the walkway was moved closer to the road. Last month there was an announcement of the decision to move up construction of an additional tower as part of this project, to house 800 condo suites. That will go in the gap behind the lower steelwork in the above picture and the current tower.

This is what it looks like from near the TI driveway across the Strip, coming down the escalator on that walkway.

The Wynn is off to the left. The new condo tower will be put on the right side of this picture, in front of the grey buildings. All of the lower buildings will house the shopping areas, with the pools and outdoor lounge areas up on the roof. The central core of the tower still has not reached it’s full height, you can see framework up there that will support more concrete. I think they are going up to fifty stories, so it’s close. The lower portion of the new tower already has glass and the facing stone installed. The middle grey section is just the steel beams covered with a concrete coating. This adds strength and insulates the steel from fire damage.

There will be 4,000 parking spaces underneath the new area, the first major casino to have underground parking. Again, with land prices getting so high they don't want to waste space on a big parking garage. The vehicle entrance will probably be the large dark covered area just to the left of the new sign framework. There is another parking entrance around the corner on DI, the construction workers are already using the garage for their private vehicles.

Walking down to the corner and crossing to the Fashion Show side you get this view.

This is the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and Desert Inn. This is probably the corner view that will be used in advertising, and be the main entrance to the new section. The walkway across DI to the Wynn is at the far left, behind the traffic signal arm. It will run from the short round tower.

Looking at the above photographs I find it difficult to believe that all of this construction will be completed in just five more months. Not just completed, but the rooms set up and ready for customers, the shops finished and open for shopping, and the canal filled with water and gondolas. They don’t even have all the steel in place yet.

Here is a close-up taken of the end of what will be the shopping area. This

It was taken from the sidewalk on the DI side, near that small crane in the extreme left of the last photo. On the bottom is a pile of steel beams awaiting lifts up. The blue 43 on one of them probably indicates the floor level it will go on. This is basic steelwork construction: a big framework, with horizontal beams. The silver corrugated steel is laid across, and several inches of concrete is poured on top to create each floor.

The wall to the left is the end of the current five story conference center. I haven’t heard anything about a conference center expansion, so this will probably be an alternate stairway providing access from the meeting rooms over to the casino and canal shops. There are stairs – and if you have been to Vegas you know that nobody likes to use stairs; there are escalators everywhere. So this will be an ‘emergency’ accessway located at the very end of the shopping area. The canal will probably end up somewhere just beyond the top of the yellow ladder. I have not seen any plans, just guessing at everything here.

So if you were in Vegas last summer you would have seen the hole in the ground for this. This summer you will see the end of the steelwork. And next summer you will never know construction work happened so recently. There are other things to watch in Vegas besides the tourists and showgirls and slot machines, and that is the town growing even more quickly than in the past.

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