Big changes are brewing at the Fashion Show. But this won’t be the typical mall expansion, with “Here We Grow Again!” signs preceding the addition of a Dairy Queen to the food court. Plans are underway for redevelopment on a dramatic scale, the kind of top-to-bottom makeover that until now had only been undertaken by the megaresorts along the Las Vegas Strip.
The $350 million, 1.9 million-square-foot transformation will double the size of the mall and assemble an unprecedented line-up of anchor tenants and specialty stores, a total of 300 shops in all. And since the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace and the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes have raised the bar for retail experiences along the resort corridor, the Fashion Show will counter with its own unique design elements and special events, while keeping the focus on retail, not gondolas or dancing statues.
With Neiman-Marcus, Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Bloomingdale’s Home Store, Macy’s, Robinsons-May, Dillard’s and Lord & Taylor, the Fashion Show will boast an all-star team of retail giants and become the only mall in the United States with eight anchors under one roof (Minnesota’s famed Mall of America has five). Annual sales projections of $1 billion would rank the Fashion Show among the top retail centers in the world.
Rita Brandin, vice president and development director for The Rouse Company, which is developing the project, hopes to take a successful property and make it even better. “The Fashion Show was already in the top 10 of [Rouse’s] portfolio sales-wise, taking in $600 per square foot, well beyond the national average of between $200 and $300. But in Las Vegas, when you stack that against the Forum Shops, which were taking in about $1,200 per square foot, we felt a change was needed.”
Its department stores had become undersized in today’s market. “Saks is only 64,000 square feet. That’s like a little boutique. In order for them to do a larger amount of sales, they needed more space,” said Brandin. The new Saks will occupy 170,000 square feet. Neiman Marcus will add more than 60,000 square feet to its current size; Macy’s, Dillard’s, and Robinsons-May will cover 200,000 square feet each.
Brandin reports the biggest challenge was accommodating the large department stores, and creating as much small store space as well. “We’ve been in pre-development almost four years, most of that working through negotiations with all the stores on their size and where they would be located, and then creating a balance of space.”
But of all the new retail outlets, Nordstrom has generated the most excitement, particularly among Las Vegas shopaholics, who have been anticipating the arrival of this fashion specialty store for years. “When we began talking with them, they weren’t sure they wanted to come to Las Vegas,” Brandin recalled. “All department stores have a certain criteria – they need x number of residents, or a certain average income, and they didn’t see Las Vegas at that level yet. We made our deals with Bloomingdale’s and Lord & Taylor, and kept going back and saying, ‘Look what we’re doing.’ During that time Mandalay Bay approached them with a generous offer to anchor their project; but when Nordstrom saw the ultimate line-up of the new mall, they knew they couldn’t be down the street from all these other department stores.”
Nordstrom at Fashion Show will offer three levels of shopping, a total of 180,000 square feet of retail space. “It adds a certain mystique to the project,” said George Connor, senior vice-president of retail properties at Colliers. “A lot of people in other parts of the country have heard of Nordstrom but never shopped there. It’s like Coor’s beer – everybody east of the Mississippi wanted to sneak a case back home to try it. The mystique does a lot to arouse people’s interest.”
Fashionistas who view Nordstrom as the mothership may experience sensory overload once inside the new Fashion Show. The mall’s name inspired the form and direction of its redevelopment; an effort to compete with the world’s most exciting fashion destinations – New York, Milan and Paris. “We hoped to create an architectural product worthy of Las Vegas and the Strip, but we didn’t have a theme like a casino,” Rita Brandin recalled. “We wanted to retain the name of the center, so we looked at what merges with fashion – TV, broadcasting, advertising – the whole media aspect of fashion has become really big in the last 10 years. We wanted to merge those audio/visual elements into our architecture.”
Working with the Los Angeles-based Altoon + Porter Architects, the Rouse Company transformed 1,000 feet of frontage on the Las Vegas Strip into a multimedia showcase, with a Tri-vision wall capable of projecting images and a massive LED screen positioned over a grand staircase that will broadcast fashion videos, advertising and events taking place inside the mall. Its signature architectural element is “The Cloud,” a canopy structure floating 180 feet above the 72,000 square-foot plaza along the Strip. Spanning the size of one-and-a-half football fields, the Cloud will offer shade during the day and project colors and lights at night. “Like the Luxor pyramid and MGM lion, we believe the icon we’ve created will help establish the property on the Strip,” Brandin said.
Inside, a 700-foot-long Great Hall will feature a retractable hydraulic runway for live fashion shows. “Many of the places people visit when they come to Las Vegas have free entertainment, such as the Bellagio fountains or the pirate show at Treasure Island. We wanted to create entertainment here with fashion shows that will start after lunch and run throughout the evening,” Brandin explained. “They will be sponsored by the department stores and the fashion industry. We already have a memorandum of understanding with the New York shows to do a ‘Best of’ event at the mall.”
Other design features include a centrally-placed three-story atrium with clerestory windows, which will flood public areas with natural light. Museum-quality materials will be added to both new and existing wings – there will be no aesthetic division between the “old” and “new” malls. The food court will be large enough to accommodate visitors as well as the 6,000 employees working inside the center when all the stores are open (as long as they don’t all get in line at once).
The mall’s reputation as a tourist destination will probably remain intact, though one local retail authority expects that once the new mall is completed in October of 2003, consumer traffic patterns will change. “The industry terminology for a project with this many anchors is a ‘super-regional,’ and this is the first super-regional in the Las Vegas market,” said Bill Dunbar, first vice president at CB Richard Ellis. “And with Nordstrom, it should appeal to a broader spectrum of consumers than the high-end retailers currently there.”
“Retail is like slot machines,” suggested Connor. “We don’t need another slot machine here; we have plenty already, and many aren’t being played. But if you build a good slot machine in a good area with a lot of traffic, it will play like crazy. It’s the same with retail. There’s not a big demand – it’s not like we don’t have enough shopping, or that locals can’t find the products they seek. But if the Fashion Show builds a big, exciting center with special shops, entertainment, events and great restaurants, and makes it a fun, festive place to go, people will come, and it will be very successful.”
Far from the Fashion Show Mall and the bright lights of the Strip, Territory Inc. is developing a 900,000-square-foot retail center at the fast-growing northwest edge of Las Vegas. Centennial Center, located on a 100-acre site at the intersection of I-95 and the I-215 Beltway, is home to eight major tenants, including a Wal-Mart Supercenter, The Home Depot, Sam’s Club, Office Max, Petco, Michael’s and Circuit City. A central village in the center features an open-air courtyard surrounded by restaurants and specialty retailers. The site is also home to a 50-acre Auto Village with seven new-car dealerships and a future 30-acre recreational facility.
Terri Sturm, president of Territory Inc., said potential customers for this super-sized center will be easy to find – demographic projections estimate over 90,000 people now live north of Cheyenne Avenue and west of Decatur Boulevard. “Since retail traditionally follows growth, we could see this was a great location, especially with the proximity to the Beltway,” she said.
Territory Inc. is developing several other retail properties in Southern Nevada in conjunction with joint venture partners. These projects include Eastgate Power Center in Henderson (350,000 square feet), Eastern Beltway Center (625,000 square feet), Pecos Legacy Center (100,500 square feet), Crossroads at Sunset (170,000 square feet) and Spencer Square, at the entrance to the Seven Hills community (300,000 square feet). Territory provides leasing and property management services for all the centers it develops. “Our philosophy is to be well-anchored and well-located,” said Sturm, who said this business philosophy provides security during economic slowdowns. She reported the pace of calls about leasing slowed down after September 11, especially from small mom-and-pop stores. “By December, our business with national retailers was back to normal,” she said. “Leasing activity usually begins in February each year, so it will be interesting to see what happens this year. Because our centers are dominated by discounters, we feel confident that our centers are in a strong position.”