Throughout Ian Bruce Eichner’s storied career, the entrepreneur has developed more than 6 million square feet of property across the nation. His current project, the 6.9 million-square-foot Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino in Las Vegas, is an ambitious development that is setting records before it even opens its doors.
By Stephanie Wilson
When you think about it, all real estate developers are selling one thing: lifestyle. Through the buildings and resorts they construct, they are providing a way of living, a certain attitude, a way to look at the world. Ian Bruce Eichner, the man behind the enormous Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino located at the heart of the famed Las Vegas Strip, wants the lifestyle you buy from him to be urbanized, centralized, and above all, about location, location, location.
Eichner has been on the real estate map since the 1980s after he had served some time as an assistant district attorney for New York. A self-made man, he made the transition into real estate when he picked up some property in Brooklyn and flipped it, and has been riding high on the profits nearly ever since.
Although there was a period of time during the recession when Eichner was facing foreclosures. In fact, in a 1994 interview with The New York Times, Eichner is quoted as saying, “I’ve finally realized it makes no sense to gamble millions to make thousands.”
So what can he say about his current project, a $3 billion-plus resort and casino located right on the Las Vegas Strip? That is wasn’t much of a gamble at all. “This project is basically a culmination of everything I have done,” he explains. When he began his developing career in New York, his innovative concepts literally changed the way people lived when he split residential buildings in three parts, offering smaller apartments at the bottom, larger at the building’s top. He also created the first clear glass energy efficient building in New York, followed by sinking grocery stores below street level, which saved retailers space and money. The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino essentially incorporates all of these concepts, with two soaring, 52-story, multi-use condo/hotel towers built in a preeminent location that will incorporate extraordinary retail and dining. Eichner continues, “I am proud to have a world-class team on board to ensure The Cosmopolitan is a beaming success.”
Like he says, “Real estate is really about three things. One is the ability to see where the market is going. Second: location, location, location, location… Lastly, one has to be able to handle the public approval process.”
He certainly has a handle on all three. Take for example his successful Continuum in South Beach. Eichner arrived in Miami in 1985 prior to its urban renewal. The area now known as SoFi had been deemed blighted by the city, but Eichner took one look around and thought, “This place is going to be fabulous, but it’s just too early for it.” He procured the plot of land at the southernmost tip of South Beach from fellow developer Thomas Kramer, and went to work on The Continuum at South Beach, a highly successful condominium project that achieved record sales per square foot for the South Florida area.
Just as he was able to anticipate the upcoming change in the Miami marketplace, six years ago Eichner set his sights on Las Vegas, which had begun its transformation from a gaming capital to one of the country’s most desirable resort destinations. He acquired an 8.5-acre site on the Strip for $90 million, and put his extensive knowledge of government protocol (which he learned from his days with the criminal justice system) to good use, securing the necessary permits to construct a first-of-its-kind urban resort development.
He draws parallels between the location of the Continuum at South Beach and what is now The Cosmopolitan in Vegas: “My Vegas and Miami properties are one of the same: they are oceanfront. The ocean can be literal or figurative. In Miami, the Continuum is one of the single best physical locations in South Beach because it is the corner of the entrance to where the cruise ships come [into Government Cut]. In Las Vegas, the oceanfront is the Strip.”
Seeing as The Cosmopolitan is situated on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard and Harmon Avenue, in the envious position between the Bellagio Hotel & Casino and MGM Mirage’s CityCenter, it is certainly on prime “oceanfront” property Eichner speaks about. He elaborates, “You can peer out one window to see Bellagio’s fountains, another to see what will be MGM Mirage’s CityCenter, then look across to the Eiffel Tower and Planet Hollywood.” At The Cosmopolitan, guests and owners will literally be in the middle of it all.
But market knowledge and prime locations are not enough to ensure the success of any project; you also need a highly successful design and team, the likes of which Eichner has secured. Eichner has teamed up with the award-winning architecture firm Arquitectonica, a 30-year old company with primary offices in Miami and New York and branches spanning the globe. Bernardo Fort-Brescia, principal and founder of the firm, has a history of encouraging a high-rise lifestyle in Vegas with his work on the now-defunct Las Ramblas, a project in conjunction with George Clooney and The Related Group’s Jorge Perez. He is excited to see his vision for a more urbanized Vegas come to fruition with The Cosmopolitan.
The Cosmopolitan Resort & Casino is a mixed-use high-rise, the likes of which Vegas has never seen. It incorporates two full-service hotel and condo-hotel towers shooting 600 feet straight up from the Strip, with an unheard of 6.9 million square feet on only 8.5 acres.
Eichner says he knew Fort-Brescia from working in Miami and chose to work with him because of his design sensitivity and international experience. He also “got the water thing.” Of Eichner, Fort-Brescia says, “He is one of the finest people I have ever dealt with. This is a person who really identifies an issue so it goes straight to the point. I think Bruce is a very sharp guy; he’s at all levels. I can talk to him about the financial side and on the legal side, and that’s incredible.”
The pair were also in sync when it came to trying to update the indoor lifestyle associated with Vegas with a more modern city feel. “When The Cosmopolitan was first designed and introduced to the market, it was the first hotel that tried to urbanize Las Vegas,” Fort-Brescia explains. “If you look down the Strip, the properties are a series of buildings that are setback like a suburban neighborhood with houses and driveways. The casino is set back, and they have a big yard, and essentially they’re suburban. And then there’s The Cosmopolitan.”
The Cosmopolitan brings urban-style living to a place that has long been about destinations, and about keeping people inside one resort for as long as possible. What The Cosmopolitan does is encourage street life and a walking atmosphere, with more than 265,000 square feet of shopping and dining directly on Las Vegas Boulevard. Eichner explains, “I tried to take the urbanity of New York and the lifestyle of Miami and combine them in The Cosmopolitan.” It is something he achieved tenfold. Not only does the street hug the sidewalk (“If I could have sucked the sidewalk right up off the street, I would have,” he jokes.), it is located right off the pedestrian bridge coming from MGM Mirage’s CityCenter, another urban-style project that hit the map after Eichner announced his plans for The Cosmopolitan.
But like the saying goes, imitation is the biggest form of flattery, and having a similar style project next door has not hurt the sales at The Cosmopolitan, which set records when it sold $1.3 billion worth of units in just 12 months. Eichner consciously held back roughly 300 of the 2,998 units until the resort opens to the public and the units can demand top dollar.
After seeing what the resort has to offer, there is little doubt people will be clamoring to be a part of the action, because, as Eichner says, “Everything is thematic and about lifestyle.” Since visitors head to Vegas to play, in addition to the 80,000-square-foot casino, The Cosmopolitan is incorporating a 5-acre “playground” with multiple outdoor decks that will include the highly anticipated beach club. The building’s unique high-rise design will allow its guests to drink in the vistas of the icons that make Las Vegas famous while lounging in a poolside cabana
To fill The Cosmopolitan’s 150,000 square feet of luxury meeting space, Global Hyatt Corporation, one of the world’s leading convention operators, is on board to ensure the place is at capacity with lucrative customers throughout the week. Eichner says they have already booked conferences well into the next decade, making certain The Cosmopolitan is an overwhelming success. “Global Hyatt’s affiliation with our project adds yet another all-star to our dream team of industry leading designers and architects,” Eichner says.
This dream team also includes an all-star chef! Unique to The Cosmopolitan is a groundbreaking deal with renowned celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck, whose Wolfgang Puck Catering will provide room service and catering resort-wide, even the employee dining room. A first for Wolfgang Puck, this is also the first full integration with a celebrity chef in a Las Vegas hotel and casino.
In addition, Philippe, the famed modern Chinese restaurant in New York, will be opening a Vegas outpost in the Cosmopolitan. Chef/Owner Philippe Chow says he has always wanted to open a restaurant in Vegas, and this project provides the perfect setting for his innovative cuisine. Co-owner Stratis Morfogen, a rising star restaurateur, concurs. “There were two times in Vegas history where the city reinvented itself,” Morfogen explains. “In the Forties with The Flamingo, the Eighties with The Mirage, and I believe The Cosmopolitan will be the third by raising the bar to a new level in the Vegas customer experience.”
Work continues at the resort 24-hours a day in preparation of the much anticipated opening. Eichner hopes to expand the brand in the future and possibly introduce it around the world.
The Cosmopolitan will ensure that the city continues its advancement into an urban destination worthy of worldwide acclaim for more than simply its gaming aspects-Las Vegas is evolving, and its skyline is reflecting this change, thanks in large part to the innovative vision of Ian Bruce Eichner.