Las Vegas has, in the last couple of decades anyway, been a smart spot for investment. It seemed that at any price, there was always room for growth, either in capital appreciation or rental yields. And every time disaster struck the market — be it misguided re-branding of the city as a family destination or the 2008 property meltdown — it has always bounced back. The desert oasis has proven one of the most resilient cities in the world, often imitated but never truly duplicated. Industry is varied in Las Vegas these days, with medicine, education and financial services all making a mark, but tourism and conventions still reign supreme. After a few sketchy years post-2008, visitor arrivals hit 40 million in 2011. With McCarran Airport’s Terminal 3 opening in June to accept more international flights, that number should go up.
Back around 2005, CityCenter was a big hole in the ground, with plans for the mother of all leisure complexes on The Strip. Rapid peaks and valleys in the property sector forced developer MGM Resorts International (along with Dubai World) to make some adjustments, but despite some snags along the way, the project was completed in 2010. The 67-acre site comprises six elements and includes the boutique condo-hotel Vdara, the 61-storey ARIA gaming resort and the 500,000 square foot super-luxury Crystals retail complex as well as residences, with every structure LEED certified. Units in two of the signature residential towers — The Residences at Mandarin Oriental and Veer Towers — are still for sale.
CityCenter is a city within the city. “It’s definitely a lifestyle property,” says Nicole Nejezch,Foxdirector of residential sales for CityCenter, noting that buyers so far are not necessarily all high-end gamblers, quite the opposite of Macau. CityCenter residents and investors are looking for a slice of the sophisticated, cosmopolitan city Vegas has become, with its fine dining, entertainment options and even outdoor recreation.
The residences surround what is the latest addition to The Strip; all the attractions the city is renowned for are steps away. Designed by Helmut Jahn (Liberty Place in Philadelphia, Sony Center in Berlin), the twin structures of Veer Towers rise at five-degree angles (hence the name) in a striking display of modern architecture and comprise a total of 670 units. Studios to three-bedroom flats ranging between 500 and 3,300 square feet features floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall windows that offer up some spectacular views — not to mention the view from the rooftop swimming pool.
The Residences at Mandarin Oriental comprise 225 flats on the upper floors of the hotel designed by Kohn Pedersen Fox (Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Hong Kong’s The Landmark). If it’s a luxury property you’re looking for in Vegas, this could be it. Access to all the non-gaming hotel’s amenities is included with purchase, including the spa, housekeeping services and room service, however the suites are private residences; they are never used as hotel stock. Prices at Veer start at approximately US$350,000. Mandarin Oriental residences begin at $850,000 and peak at almost $7 million for the 4,000-square foot three-bedroom penthouses.
Las Vegas’ property woes have been well documented, and Nejezch doesn’t dispute that prices are off from 2006 peaks. However, “You have to look at it like you do any major city. You’re always going to pay more for premium locations. So when you hear about all that had happened there was always a premium for City Center … You have to separate the typical housing market from what’s going on on The Strip.”
Vegas is showing recovery in most economic sectors, and Nevada continues to be ranked as one of the top states to invest in. For Nejezch’s healthy mix of end-users and investors the city remains a safe haven and the exchange rate right now is favourable. “It’s definitely a long-term opportunity. We have an attractive offer that makes it a good purchase in the short term, two to three years, but our buyers are looking at holding on to it for the longer term. It’s completed, it continues to evolve, it’s going to age well and nothing else is going to be built on The Strip, like this, in the years to come,” Nejezch summarises. The offer she’s referring to (expiring July 31) are prices 40 percent off CityCenter’s launch rates, with an additional 15 percent incentive package (including management fees and property taxes), to bring prices almost in line with the city’s current market pattern.
But ultimately what draws buyers to CityCenter is its neighbourhood vibe and its location at the heart of the action. Las Vegas may be one of the few places in the world where owners want to be on the beaten path. “They do want to be on the beaten path,” Nejezch agrees with a laugh. “It’s a fun place to be. Most buildings in Vegas are one building. Live in Veer or Mandarin and exit the tower and you have a community that surrounds you. You can grab a cup of coffee, there’s all this lavish landscaping, there’s a fine art collection where world-renowned artists get to feature their sculptures.” There’s even a Todd English PUB (public urban bar) to boost that sense of community. “Even though you’re in the heart of everything sometimes you don’t even feel like you’re in Las Vegas.”