There’s no sugar-coating the fact that the Grand Canal Shoppes on the Palazzo side of the center is a bit quiet, a bit too still.
The shopping center’s owner, General Growth Properties, is taking action, banking on new types of food experiences — localized and more niche — along with entertainment to help liven things up on a portion of the center totaling roughly 110,000 square feet of the overall 500,000-square-foot Grand Canal Shoppes.
To understand the predicament is to understand the center’s geography. It’s not like a traditional mall with wings. It winds, akin to a river that spreads across the Venetian Las Vegas and Palazzo resorts. The Palazzo side of the center was developed separate from the original piece when the Palazzo tower was built. The two sides were branded as separate entities up until 2013 when they were finally unified under the Grand Canal Shoppes banner.
“This area has its own identity. We have the collection of luxury retailers. We have a lot of restaurants. We also have a quieter, slower vibe, which we want to address and energize,” said GGP vice president of leasing Kirsten Lee.
Over the course of the next year and going into early 2019, the Palazzo side is being rethought. GGP is mulling either a food hall concept or some type of immersive museum experience for space that faces out onto the street. A 14,000-square-foot Recital Karaoke, hailing from L.A.’s Koreatown, will make its way to the center. GGP is also in the midst of finishing the lease with a South Korean barbecue restaurant, also from L.A., with what Lee called a “notable restaurateur.” Orange Tree Bar will set up camp. Rosaliné’s Ricardo Zarate will do a Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant called Once in what used to be Emeril Lagasse’s Table 10. There’s also a craft brewery that inked a lease and is set to open around October. It’s an assortment that’s more craft than, say, the glitzy outposts of celebrity chefs dotting the Las Vegas Strip, but times are changing.
“I think the days of the super big celebrity chef, although they certainly played a huge role — the role — in making Vegas a food town, that has also matured. Palates have matured and people are wanting something a little different,” Lee said of what she called the “jewel box operators” GGP has a keen interest in attracting.
Those moves are no different from the forces that are shifting marketers’ attention to doing more deal with microinfluencers as opposed to mega bloggers in favor of more localized approaches in a bid to come across as authentic to consumers.
“You have to, as a developer in this space, we have to always be thinking ‘What do our consumers want? What do I want?’ How are we all shopping? How are we all relating to the space, whether we feel good in it when you see it,” Lee said. “It’s hard to describe and that’s our challenge to build or take what we have and change it into that.”
With food serving as the first part of a three-prong approach, securing the luxury tenant base is the second, and the existing luxury tenants are essentially locked in with recent renewals and some experimenting with different formats, such as Louis Vuitton testing and now expanding a unisex concept. Once those two prongs of the strategy are solidified, the developer’s hope is it will entice more contemporary brands, what Lee called “the cool club,” pace-setter tenants out of Los Angeles that don’t yet have a presence in Vegas, to make their way to Grand Canal.
“Retail has shifted everywhere in every market,” Lee said. “In Vegas in particular, your retail dollars are also being competed against for gaming, food and beverage, day clubs, concerts and everything else that everyone wants to do when they’re in Vegas. We have to compete with that as well. We can’t just put the same old stores in anymore. It’s not really driving that excitement and Instagrammable moments that our shoppers are wanting.”
It’s key improvements on a big corner of the Las Vegas Strip, shared by other powerhouse properties. GGP’s Fashion Show Mall — hovering at nearly 1.9 million square feet — carries all the traditional department store anchors, fast-fashion tenants, contemporary and more. Then there’s Wynn Las Vegas.
“It’s a powerhouse corner in dining right at this intersection,” said Janet LaFevre, GGP senior marketing manager. “Just between our two [GGP] properties alone at Fashion Show and Grand Canal it’s 400 retailers, nine anchor department stores and 60 restaurants. There’s no denying the sheer mass on this corner.”
By the numbers, there’s anywhere from 8,000 to 9,000 workers on just the Grand Canal and resort side. Fashion Show adds another 6,000 workers. The employee base is yet another group that, as a developer, is important just for the potential to be able to offer workers a place to go for lunch or something as simple as a bottle of water.
The scramble to make improvements comes at a good time with the portion of the Strip the center sits on in the midst of major construction. There’s Wynn’s Paradise Park and Wynn West hotel, Las Vegas Convention Center expansion project and work on the former Fontainebleau renamed The Drew. More recently Madison Square Garden revealed plans for its high-tech Sphere entertainment venue concept, which will offer more than 18,000 seats and have connectivity in some way with the Palazzo.
“We’re really sitting at the crux of the next boom, which is north Las Vegas,” LaFevre said. “So we’re perfectly positioned with the future today.”