The ‘Manhattanization’ of Las Vegas

manhattanization The Manhattanization of Las Vegas
Manhattan in Las Vegas.

Las Vegas has had a bad night these last few years. From one gamble to the next, the city keeps plunking down vast sums of money on new construction, and then can’t drive themselves home.

Somehow this is called ‘Manhattanization,’ in our favorite trade gem, McGraw-Hill Construction News.

Like a middle-aged rake too long on the party circuit, Las Vegas is starting to show the strain of 20 years of unrelieved excess. Roads are congested, schools crowded, water supplies dwindling and the pressures of growth are distorting the market for construction labor and contracting capacity.

Construction prices are rising along with soaring real-estate prices, driving the Manhattanization of the city.

Sounds like Las Vegification to us. Anyway, following that lead is a fairly harrowing assessment of the unmanageable sprawl that Las Vegas is quickly becoming.

Nearly $25 billion worth of resort expansions are planned by 2009, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reports. Another $6.45 billion worth of projects are tentatively proposed through 2009. Topping them all will be MGM Mirage Inc.’s Project CityCenter development, a $7-billion, 18-million-sq-ft hotel, condominium, casino and entertainment complex (ENR 12/5/05 p. 16). Main resort construction will begin in April, with a phased opening in 2009 and 2010. But the condo market is starting to show signs of exhaustion in the face of soaring real-estate costs. In July, one developer canceled a $600-million condo-hotel project; last month saw cancellation of a $325-million condo. Other developers are flipping properties rather than build (ENR 1/23 p. 15).

But the real story is the government expenditure required on roads, schools, electricity and water to keep pace with the endless demand for McMansions and new restaurants and casinos.

Clark County is experiencing shortages in PVC conduit and traffic signal poles, and shrinking bid lists are drawing 50% fewer bidders than in years past. Resort operators and private developers pay bigger fees and offer better contract terms. Right-of-way acquisition and infrastructure construction are not keeping pace. “A lot of growth is taking place before infrastructure is in place,” says Bobby Shelton, county spokesman.

- Tom McGeveran