Construction began this week on the Grand Bazaar Shops outside of Bally's Las Vegas Hotel and Casino. The 2-acre outdoor mall is expected to open next fall on the corner of Flamingo Road and Las Vegas Boulevard, in the heart of the Strip.
Developer Larry Siegel describes the project as a sanitized, glitzed-out version of a traditional Middle Eastern market.
"They're really interesting places where people can gather, and it's a real experience in terms of sights and sounds and smells. That's what we're trying to create here in a more sophisticated, modern way," he said.
The walking mall will feature a spice market, a butcher shop, and the first Swarovski store that will allow customers to haggle over crystals.
Other hyper-specific themes rolled out on the Strip this year include an Eastern European glass factory-themed theater and a China-themed casino, which is expected to include a replica of the Great Wall of China and house live pandas.
The Grand Bazaar Shops will consist of about 150 small retail spaces, half of which have already been leased. It will be competing with several other Strip malls, including the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace, with about 160 stores, and the Miracle Mile Shops at the Planet Hollywood casino, with 170 stores.
The Bazaar team is not alone in betting on increased interest in Las Vegas retail. Last month, the Treasure Island hotel-casino announced it would end its free pirate show to make way for new shops, which are also expected to open in the fall of 2014.
Business has never been better at Strip malls, according to David Hoenemeyer, president of Bally's, Paris and Planet Hollywood, all owned by Caesars Entertainment Corp.
"The customer these days is looking for more than the gaming experience," he said. "The customer's changed, and though gaming may be on their mind, it's not always on the forefront."
It remains to be seen whether tourists will brave the 107 degree heat common in the Las Vegas summer to shop at stores they could find at indoor malls a few casinos over. Hoenemeyer insists that misters will make up the difference, and says in any case, it's dry heat.
Las Vegas is increasingly looking to beat its reputation as a shut-in.
MGM Resorts International is spending $100 million to build a park outside of its New York-New York and Monte Carlo casinos. Caesars is planning its own outdoor shopping and dining "district" on the Strip. That project, Linq, is anchored by a 550-foot-tall observation wheel slated to open in 2014.
The Shops will feature brightly-colored tile roofs, designed as shade structures, and also as advertisements built for a town where the main customers see things from above, in their skyscraper hotel rooms. Each night, a 4,000 pound crystal ball outside the Swarovski store will put on a lightshow.
The new mall is expected to cost $50 million, about half of a lavish Strip nightclub. Casino executives hope it will draw gamblers to Bally's, which just went through a $32 million renovation. Bally's is set back from the street, and has always struggled with foot traffic.
If the concept works, Siegel, who's developed malls in Canada and Spain, says he plans to open Grand Bazaars in other cities.
"I think people will come from all over Las Vegas and beyond to experience this," he said.
Hannah Dreier can be reached at http://twitter.com/hannahdreier
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