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.

PPS hosted a Placemaking Training with MGM staff to envision short-term, low-cost strategies to accelerate the maturation of City Center’s urban character.

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.”

At the IBM Plaza in New York, the Claus Oldenburg sculpture anchors a vibrant public gathering space where flexible tables and chairs enable users to modify the environment to fit their needs.

Lacking comfortable amenities, City Center patrons are forced to dine on bollards which distance them from the art.

This summer, PPS traveled to Las Vegas to  introduce MGM executives, Crystals managers and tenants to the fundamentals of Placemaking, then lead the group in a Place Performance Evaluation to assess the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities to invigorate Crystals through low-cost, short-term Placemaking interventions. Recommendations centered on ways to enhance existing spaces with short-term physical improvements and public space programming to transform the use and perception of the public spaces.  Suggestions included a weekly concert series, a farmer’s market, rotating public art displays and a many more activities intended to make the most of City Center’s existing assets.

With a few, low-cost Placemaking interventions, this dramatic form can become an authentic town center.

A Soul for Sin City: Placemaking in Las Vegas City Center was last modified: March 6th, 2012 by Ken Farmer
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