Crystals Vision

GM sees CityCenter mall as half full; analyst thinks optimism is justified

Although more than 40 percent of Crystals has yet to be leased, General Manager Farid Matraki is optimistic. “I think the first 100 days were very effective,” he says. “I think we’re on track.”

Two to three years ago, being at 58 percent capacity would have been seen as a disappointment, Matraki says, but not today. Back then, management had hoped to be at 80 percent capacity after the first three months. But given the economic freefall that Las Vegas has seen, Matraki is pleased with today’s numbers.

“We pretty much leased this building at the worst economic time and we were extremely successful doing it,” he says. He attributes that, in part, to the tenants who could see the bigger picture.

“You don’t make business decisions based on the economic times that day,” he says. “We all know that the economy was bad last year. You don’t suddenly decide not to expand … just because you’ve had one or two bad years.”

Despite the many challenges, Matraki says Crystals hasn’t lost a single tenant. “Everybody we were negotiating with we got,” he says. Tenants include Tiffany & Co., Roberto Cavalli, Porsche Design and Tourbillon.

The 500,000-square-foot LEED-Gold-certified complex opened in December with 30 stores. In the past 100 days, eight additional stores have opened, with plans for more in coming months, including Miu Miu, Christian Dior, Prada, Gucci and restaurant Social House. Other stores scheduled to open in 2010 include Emilio Pucci, Ermenegildo Zegna, Fendi, Philipp Plein, Versace, Lanvin and Brunello Cucinelli. At its capacity, Matraki says Crystals will be home to 68 to 72 retailers.

It’s that continued expansion, says Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with Applied Analysis, that bodes well for Crystals. “The fact that they’re continuing to move forward in such a difficult market, the fact that we’re continuing to see improvements in visitor volume, the fact that [MGM Mirage CEO] Jim Murren has come out and indicated that the opening of CityCenter has not caused a negative impact on all of their other properties, you combine all those things and … you have to be encouraged by that,” he says.

According to Matraki, some of the numbers seen in individual stores tell a similar story of optimism. He says that retailers Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Tom Ford and Mikimoto have performed particularly well. In fact, Louis Vuitton, which was originally slated to be 19,000 square feet expanded to 24,000, and is the largest of its brand in North America. Prada was originally planned to be 7,000 square feet but has expanded to 21,000 and will be three stories tall when it opens in June.

Matraki adds that foot traffic has been on the rise, and locals have had an increasing presence. As more retailers continue to open, he expects to see that trend continue.

“We have the best valet, we have the best service, we have the best concierge,” he says. “It’s just a matter of slowly, slowly getting people used to coming back here.”