A Soul for Sin City: Placemaking in
Las Vegas City Center
Possibly the biggest gamble in the history of Las Vegas, City Center has recently opened in the heart of the Las Vegas Strip with underwhelming results. The 76 acre, 16 million square foot development offers a mixed-use, urban lifestyle previously unavailable in Las Vegas. It is designed by some of the world’s foremost starchitects, and at $8.5 billion dollars, it is the largest privately financed construction project in United States history. While architecturally bold and a model of green building, City Center is not fully realized or developed from a human-scale perspective. It lacks what sociologist Ray Oldenberg calls authentic and engaging “third places ” that we seek in an urban experience.
A recent review by Bill Ordine in the Philadelphia Inquirer put it this way:
“[CityCenter’s] streetscape is sterile, and pedestrians find little to browse and no real outdoor oasis for relaxing….[D]ecorative elements, while attractive, fail to engage. It would be unfair to compare the urban environment of CityCenter with real cities. The personality of a metropolis develops over decades — or centuries — while CityCenter is in its infancy. . .So perhaps the grand design of providing a sense of place is achievable with maturity. In CityCenter’s case, what works are the traditional elements of a vibrant, sophisticated casino-hotel. What’s missing is the vitality and character that define a community.”