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Best of Howard Stutz

Gaming Guru

Howard Stutz

Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas sees high views as a draw

12 April 2010

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is not for acrophobes.

From a 40th-floor open-air balcony overlooking the Strip, Cosmopolitan hotel guests are seemingly at eye-level with the Eiffel Tower replica across the street at Paris Las Vegas.

And the Cosmopolitan has 10 stories of hotel rooms above the 40th floor.

Each unit of the 2,995-room hotel has its own terrace, which is unheard of in Las Vegas.

The difference is also the experience.

The Eiffel Tower viewing platform is fully enclosed by steel and mesh.

At the Cosmopolitan, hotel guests can take in the Strip, gaze upon the Bellagio fountains, look down on the Planet Hollywood Resort swimming pool and oversee CityCenter from beyond their rooms outside on a patio-style setting.

A steel-enforced railing bar keeps you about two feet from the terraces' edge. Still, at that height someone can get a little weak in the knees.

"Sunsets and sunrises will be spectacular," said Cosmopolitan Chief Executive Officer John Unwin, a former Caesars Palace general manager who has been on the job since October.

"There is nowhere else on the Strip where you can have this type of experience from your hotel room." Unwin said. "We believe that will set this property apart from everyone else."

Whether those guests will venture from the their rooms to gamble inside the Cosmopolitan's yet-to-be-completed 100,000-square-foot casino remains to be seen.

With the oft-delayed, financially troubled and unfinished Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas expected to open in mid-December, Unwin and his team would like to bottle up the feeling offered by the hotel's condominium-style rooms and market that emotion to potential guests.

As a single entity and not part of any resort chain, the Cosmopolitan will open without a database of customers. But as the only hotel-casino opening scheduled this year, Unwin said the property will command attention.

"I'm sure we will be drawing customers from other properties," he said. "That's part of the plan."

Unwin gave the Review-Journal a tour of the Cosmopolitan this week. Photography from inside the casino was not allowed.

The $3.9 billion Cosmopolitan will open some five years after a thunderstorm forced its groundbreaking ceremonies indoors. The hotel-casino, on 8.7 acres between Bellagio and CityCenter, will also debut amid an economic downturn that, depending on which analyst you consult, may or may not be waning.

The rain during the project's unveiling may have been an omen of the stormy times that followed. Construction slowed on numerous occasions after the groundbreaking.

German-based investment house Deutsche Bank has owned the Cosmopolitan since 2008, acquiring the property for $1 billion when it was half-finished and its original developer, New York builder Bruce Eichner and his company, entered foreclosure proceedings.

Deutsche Bank unsuccessfully tried to sell the property and tried to find a manger, but is now resigned to operate the resort.

The property's troubled past is not lost on Unwin, who has 30 years of luxury hotel experience including five years at Caesars Palace. He's determined to make the resort work. The property itself plans to hire 3,600 workers this year while the vendors that manage the retail restaurants could hire as many as 1,400 employees.

"We have all the components our competitors have," Unwin said. "But I would describe the Cosmopolitan as polished without pretense. We're built close to the Strip, right on the 50-yard line. Instead of being on a huge acreage, we've taken everything and squeezed to create a whole different feeling."

Unwin said the 2,995-room hotel -- housed in two towers -- will open in phases, with anywhere from 800 to 1,600 rooms coming on line initially and the rest proportioned out through July 2011.

The property includes the casino, 150,000 square feet of meeting space, 13 restaurants, a 50,000-square-foot spa, a rooftop pool deck overlooking the Strip, a nightclub, retail space and a 3,800-space underground parking garage.

Much has changed since Eichner first announced a hotel-casino and luxury condominium complex with a casino on the second floor, would open by the middle of 2008.

Condominium sales were canceled and the units were turned into studio and one-bedroom hotel rooms, each with a kitchenette and the aforementioned balconies.

The casino, originally planned for the second level, swapped locations with the ground floor retail space. When the project opens, slot machines will be just feet from the Strip sidewalk.

Because of the change in location, one area of the casino floor will now house a three-level bar and entertainment feature overlooking the front of the property.

The off-and-on construction phase meant most of the hotel rooms and all of the convention space are nearly complete while the casino and retail areas lag behind.

The main vehicle entrance into the Cosmopolitan will be off of Harmon Avenue, which was redesigned in conjunction with CityCenter.

Unwin believes the Cosmopolitan will benefit from the two pedestrian overpasses, built before CityCenter opened, that lead into the property's second level.