By  on April 17, 2006

NEW YORK — Las Vegas has it all…or does it?

Retailing keeps pouring into Sin City, but General Growth Properties believes there's room for more and has a plan to deliver what it considers a novel retail experience.

The Chicago-based developer, in its first start-up project on the Strip, is creating The Shoppes at the Palazzo, which will have 300,000 square feet of retail and will be part of the $1.6 billion Palazzo Hotel Resort Casino.

The Shoppes at the Palazzo intends to capitalize on the success of The Grand Canal Shoppes at the Venetian, and will be physically linked to it. The Palazzo will also include more than 3,000 hotel suites, 1 million square feet of convention space and 15 restaurants.

"We are trying to achieve an elegant, Beverly Hills, Italian feeling," said Robert Michaels, president and chief operating officer of General Growth, discussing the vision for the project. "It won't be the same thing as the Venetian. It will be a different but complementary component tied together." It will also feature "innovative" retailers in the spirit of the type of shopping found in SoHo, he said.

"We are a year-and-a-half out from opening. There is tremendous interest. We are well along in our leasing. This will open 95 to 100 percent leased."

The Palazzo will be in competition with Taubman Centers Inc., which has said it expects to sign leases with "all the major luxury suspects" for its Project CityCenter, MGM/Mirage's $5 billion vertical city, opening in Las Vegas in 2009. Taubman wants to have 100 names or more on the store roster, including major international brands, as well as street frontage and brand identity similar to what the brands get on the Ginza in Tokyo or New York's Fifth Avenue. That's what Taubman considers its major point of difference with other properties in town.

But the Palazzo has a head start, and it got a big lift with the announcement this month that Barneys New York will anchor the project with a three-level, 85,000-square-foot store that will have an entrance off the Strip and valet parking. It is scheduled to open in fall 2007.Other stores will be smaller, but no others have been announced. Michaels said he plans to assemble a group of 80 to 100 stores, as well as six restaurants, with a "luxury to semi-luxury" appeal. There will be apparel, jewelry and lifestyle tenants in the Shoppes at the Palazzo, he said. "Our goal is for the retailing to be something new and different."

Asked if Las Vegas is getting over-stored, he replied, "Although there is a lot of retailing, the city is growing. The [retail] numbers don't appear to suggest that the city is overbuilt at all." On the Strip, General Growth owns The Fashion Show mall, and the real estate company will assume ownership and operation of The Shoppes at the Palazzo around the time of the opening. General Growth is working with the the Palazzo, owned by LVS Group, on the leasing. "We're buying a completed project," Michaels said. "This was really the vision of Robert Goldstein," who is president and chief operating officer of the Venetian and the Palazzo.

Michaels projects that The Shoppes at the Palazzo will generate $1,000 to $1,100 in sales per square foot in its first year in business. Grand Canal Shoppes generates $1,100, he noted.

The Palazzo will also have a Canyon Ranch spa and a Hermitage museum.

Jim Rimelspach, design director for Wilson & Associates, an architectural interiors firm specializing in retail, hotels and high-end residential projects, is doing the design work for Palazzo. He said the mission is to create something that's not like a typical mall. "Something a little more comfortable and residential in feel.

"We are trying to break down the typical mile-long walk to something more manageable," he said. "We will have streets that break up the shopping experience so you can meander through different areas without being so overwhelmed."

Running through The Shoppes at the Palazzo will be three main walkways. Instead of the hard-surface flooring that most malls have, there will be marble floors with large area rugs. There will also be respites along the walkways, or "nodes," as Rimelspach called them. One could be marked by a cafe, another could be around a sculpture. The overall atmosphere will be "casual and laid-back, emphasizing the experience rather than storefronts."Signs and entry-walls will be in polished bronze, and lighting will be easy on the eyes, with soft cove lights and chandeliers. The feeling will be horizontal space, "brought down to the human scale, not a huge, tall galleria space," said Rimelspach. "It's all on one level, broken up into streets; the longest walk without a break is maybe 75 yards, and then there are breaks where you can contemplate where to go next. Malls are usually hundreds of yards with layers and layers of retail. This will almost be like shopping on Rodeo Drive, with 18- to 20-foot-high ceilings — more intimate space. It will be much more pedestrian-oriented. Each street will have its own coloration. One will be in pastel, another one might be more vibrant, like Pucci. The third will be more subdued, with a Tiffany feel."

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