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LAS VEGAS-Steel work has been completed for the Aria Resort & Casino, the anchor property of its massive Citycenter development on the Las Vegas Strip. With 4,000 rooms in two 61-story towers, Aria is the largest of six towers that will hold the bulk of the 19 million-sf mini-city between the Bellagio and Monte Carlo resorts, which is set to open all at once in late 2009 at a cost of more than $11 billion.

Construction of Aria began with excavation in April 2006. Vertical construction began in September 2007. Workers added one floor every seven days. The two towers are expected to be fully skinned by the end of the year.

On the environmental front, the Aria has been designed to achieve more than 30% improvement in energy efficiency over most buildings. In addition, approximately 50% of all wood products used in construction have been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and a water conservation plan is expected to save an estimated 31 million gallons of water each year, which represents and overall savings of 34% over existing building codes. MGM Mirage says it will seek LEED certification for the Aria from the US Green Building Council.

Citycenter is a 50-50 joint venture of MGM Mirage and Dubai World, a Dubai government conglomerate whose companies include Nakheel, developer of the man-made Palm and World islands off the coast of Dubai. The Aria is the second Citycenter tower to top out. In June, workers placed the last piece of structural steel for the 57-story Vdara Hotel Condo.

In addition to the Aria, Citycenter will be home to two 400-room, non-gaming hotels, 2,700 for-sale residential units (including the Vdara) in five towers, and a 500,000-sf retail and entertainment district. The development also will have its own monorail to move people around the site.

The cost to develop Citycenter is more than $11.2 billion. In its first quarter report, MGM Mirage pegged the net project budget at $8.5 million–after an expected $2.7 billion in residential sales. The gross project budget includes $9.2 billion for construction costs (including capitalized interest), $1.7 billion for the land, $200 million for pre-opening expenses and $100 million of “intangible assets.”

The project’s opening is now less than 16 months away. When it was 20 months out, about half of the 2,700 residential units had been sold and the mix of buyers has been about one-third Nevada, one-third from Southern California and one third international. About 10% of sales have come from the Middle East, a percentage MGM Mirage and Dubai World hopes will grow this year now that a sales center in Dubai is up and running.

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