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Through the Looking Glass

BELLAGIO The palatial atmosphere of the new Bellagio is evident in every aspect, from its $300 million art collection down to the courtesy soaps and shampoos found in the posh guest rooms.

The project is one of the most opulent resorts in the world. The 36-story complex is located on a 120-acre site on the Strip. The architecture was inspired by the village of Bellagio on the shores of Northern Italy's magnificent Lake Como. An 8.5-acre lake that sits along the Strip is the resort's signature.

Bellagio's extensive amenities have been elegantly fashioned, in part with the help of Seattle-based Tim Girvin Design. The company's role in the project r anged from the packaging of in-room amenities to the branding of 34 of Bellagio's restaurants and retail shops in Via Bellagio, a unique collection of upscale boutiques and shops.

With primary tenants such as Giorgio Armani, Chanel, Gucci and Tiffany & Co., resort owners wanted to complement that quality experience among its own retail concepts. The Bellagio stores sell goods ranging from apparel to art.

"Bellagio wanted a collection of shops that was representative of the property," says Stephen Pannone, a senior design director with Tim Girvin Design. Creating this image involved an exacting attention to detail, from store decor and signage to the bags and boxes of store packaging.

The hotel took a similar approach with its 19 restaurant concepts. "They developed deals with well-known restaurants such as La Cirque and Olives," Pannone says. "Our challenge in some cases was to build off the identity those restaurants had in their original locations." For example, Tim Girvin refined the graphics and color scheme associated with the Olives restaurant from the Boston area.

In other cases, Tim Girvin had to start from scratch to create identities for Bellagio's new restaurants. Bellagio played off of its famous art collection and its relationship with the Picasso family to launch the Picasso restaurant. A variety of Picasso's original artwork was incorporated into the restaurant decor, and his signature was used in the logo.

"Part of the attention to detail was that they wanted to create what they were calling one of the finest hotels in the world," Pannone says.

THE VENETIAN CASINO RESORT Inspired by Italy's most romantic city, The Venetian Casino Resort draws from classic Venetian architecture and design in its presentation of arched bridges, canals, piazzas and cobbled walkways.

"We think it will bring a unique project to Las Vegas with its combination of luxury suites, convention center and retail environment, which is made up of high-fashion, luxury boutiques," says Robert Schnur, a principal in the Los Angeles office of San Francisco-based Blatteis Realty Co., leasing agent and retail consultant to the project.

The master plan calls for two identical towers to be linked by two 100,000 sq. ft. casinos, theaters, the Grand Canal Shoppes, and the expanded Sands Expo and Convention Center.

True to its name, The Venetian features reproductions of a variety of Italian landmarks. The Campanile (Bell) Tower serves as an entrance through which a people-mover carries visitors over the Rialto Bridge and the Bridge of Sighs to the second-level Grand Canal Shoppes entrance.

The centerpiece of the indoor mall is a replica of the Grand Canal, which stretches 1,200 linear feet and boasts a fleet of gondolas. At the center of the mall rises a 70-foot, sky-like ceiling that envelopes a reproduction of Venice's famous St. Mark's Square.

The Venetian's first phase includes 64 shops and restaurants spread over 500,000 sq. ft. The project was 95% leased at the time of the grand opening.

"The diverse mix of retailers, combined with the overall project design, creates an unusual retail project. We don't think there will be anything like it anywhere in the country," Schnur says.

One notable tenant is the exclusive Canyon Ranch health spa. Others include hand-chosen, nationally branded retailers as well as entertainment concepts such as Madame Tussauds wax museum and In Celebration of Golf. The retail mix offers shoppers a range of price points, from Banana Republic to Oliver & Co. The Venetian also has welcomed a variety of international retailers, selling such upscale wares as fine Australian shoes, Italian lingerie and Japanese pearls.

Some of the retail and restaurant concepts are brand-new, such as The Cheesecake Factory's Grand Lux Cafe. There's also a 55,000 sq. ft. Stage 16 from Warner Brothers, which offers private screening rooms and a first-of-its-kind, interactive dining experience, with customers appearing on the sets of several movies throughout the meal. Walls are changed and waiters change costumes to complete the effect of the virtual movie set.

"We've been pleasantly surprised with the quality of tenants," Schnur says. "It's really a well-balanced shopping environment."

MANDALAY BAY RESORT & CASINO The March grand opening of the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino was a star-studded extravaganza - giving visitors a taste of what's to come.

Entertainment plays a key role in the drawing power of this $950 million luxury resort and casino. The resort boasts a diverse mix of live music, sporting events, Broadway theater and outdoor recreation amid the sand and surf found in the hotel's 11-acre tropical water environment.

The 60-acre complex features 3,700 rooms and suites, as well as myriad restaurants, spas, meeting rooms and, of course, casino space. "We wanted to build a comprehensive resort, and we tried to acquire the highest-quality partners and most entertaining amenities that we could, " says Bill Doak, Mandalay Bay's director of public relations and promotions.

One such partner is the Four Seasons, a 424-room luxury hotel that occupies the 35th through the 39th floors of Mandalay Bay. The hotel has its own entrance, parking, check-in, five-star restaurants, pool, spa and convention facilities.

With the emphasis on entertainment, the complex offers a tropical environment with beach games, numerous pools (including a wave pool) and a jogging track. Another entertainment concept is the House of Blues, which serves as a restaurant and a live music stage. Since opening earlier this spring, the House of Blues has hosted artists such as Bob Dylan and the Blues Brothers.

The 1,700-seat Broadway-style Mandalay Bay Theatre is currently home to the Tony Award-winning musical "Chicago." Meanwhile, the 12,000-seat Mandalay Bay Events Center will showcase superstar concerts and sporting events. Luciano Pavarotti performed during the center's April grand opening. Several lounges, clubs and stages offer a variety of other entertainment acts nightly.

Fifteen restaurants combine world-class dining with a variety of notable concepts and fun features. The Russian-inspired Red Square restaurant features a frozen ice bar with more than 100 varieties of vodka.

Mixing fine dining with unusual entertainment is Charlie Palmer's Aureole. "Part of the entertainment experience at Aureole is the wine tower," Doak says. Anyone who loves sampling fine wine will revel in the four-story wine tower, which has an electronic system for selecting and delivering bottles of vino.

Interior designers also have worked their magic on the exciting rumjungle concept. Visitors to the nightclub and restaurant literally walk through a wall of fire and a wall of water to enter. "Mandalay is a destination resort of immense quality and diversity," Doak says. "But while it's upscale, it's also fun."

PARIS LAS VEGAS Replicating a world-class city can be a daunting task. But that didn't stop the owners of the $760 million Paris Las Vegas Casino Resort.

The 24-acre property will feature 2,916 guest rooms, eight French restaurants, a street-level shopping district, casino and meeting space, a European health spa, and a two-acre, rooftop swimming pool.

The design team for Paris Las Vegas has paid excruciating attention to detail in order to re-create the City of Lights. Hotel officials worked closely with the French government to secure original plans to aid in replicating the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe, Paris Opera House, Louvre and Hotel de Ville. The 50-story replica of the Eiffel Tower used a copy of Gustave Eiffel's original 1889 drawings, and the Paris government even sent over a paint chip to help match the color.

French influences also appear in the resort's architecture, interior decor and street layout.

"We sent teams over to France to take photos and study the architecture of street scenes and retail areas," says Bob Dowd, director of public relations for Paris Las Vegas. "We tried to duplicate it as closely as possible."

Paris Las Vegas plans to carry the French theme into all aspects of the project. One goal is to provide its 4,000 employees with authentic uniforms, as well as cultural training. The level of training will depend on the individual's position. For example, a waiter at La Provence restaurant will be educated on the culture of that region.

The hotel also is importing a variety of products to improve its authenticity, including products ranging from restaurant equipment to real French fries.

The resort's retail shopping area will be set along a Parisian street scene fashioned after the famed Rue de la Paix. The interior buildings are being covered with facades representative of specific Parisian districts, and finishes are being applied to produce a more authentic weathered look.

Although the resort's Rue de la Paix will include some well-known French retail names, many of the stores will revolve around French themes and imported merchandise. Some of the shops slated for the Rue de la Paix are La Cave, a wine cellar; La Vogue, a lingerie shop; and Le Elements, a home gifts store. Other upscale boutiques will feature apparel, children's toys, luggage and gourmet food.

"The details are astounding," Dowd says. "People will be amazed."

Owner: Mirage Resorts Inc., Las Vegas

Design team: Atlandia Design, Las Vegas (architect); Roger Thomas Design, Las Vegas (interior design)

Theme: Tuscany

Opening: October 1998

Cost: $1.7 billion

Size: 6 million sq. ft. of building area, 2 million sq. ft. hotel

Wow feature: An 8.5-acre lake, and an art gallery featuring works valued at more than $300 million

Owner: Las Vegas Sands Inc., Las Vegas

Design team: Wimberly, Allison, Tong & Goo, Newport Beach, Calif. (architect); Dougall Design, Pasadena, Calif. (casino interior and retail design); TSA, Cambridge, Mass. (convention and ballroom design); and Wilson & Associates, Dallas (suites and public space design)

Theme: Venice

Opening: April 1999 (Phase I)

Cost: $2.5 billion for Phases I and II

Size: 64 acres (Phase I); 500,000 sq. ft. of retail in the Grand Canal Shoppes

Wow feature: A canal running 1,200 linear feet, complete with a fleet of gondolas

Owner: Circus Circus Enterprises Inc., Las Vegas

Design team: Klai:Juba Architects Ltd., Las Vegas (architect).; Dougall Design, Pasadena, Calif. (public area design); Anita Brooks, Las Vegas (in-room design)

Theme: Tropical

Size: 3,700 rooms and suites, 15 restaurants, 215,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 135,000 sq. ft. of gaming space, all on a 60-acre site

Opening: March 1999

Cost: $950 million

Wow feature: 11-acre tropical water environment

Owner: Park Place Entertainment Corp., Las Vegas

Design team: Architect: Bergman, Walls & Youngblood Ltd., Las Vegas (architect); Yates-Silverman Inc., Las Vegas (casino and restaurant design); and Kovacs & Associates, Toluca Lake, Calif. (guest rooms)

Theme: Paris

Opening: September 1999

Cost: $760 million

Size: 31,500 sq. ft. of retail in the Rue de la Paix; and a 34-story hotel with 2,916 rooms and suites, eight restaurants, 85,000 sq. ft. of gaming, 140,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, five lounges and a European health spa

Wow feature: A 50-story replica of Paris' Eiffel Tower

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