Home » VT News » Will Going Inside-Out Make the Trop a Destination?

Will Going Inside-Out Make the Trop a Destination?

By Chuckmonster on Thursday, 14th November 2013 12:39pm
  » filed under Las Vegas  comments: 17


We're super excited share with you this incredible guest post by VT reader JerryDice (@jerrydice on the Twitter) continuing the discussion about the The Shops at Tropicana. Take it away Jerry! - Ed

VT's reveal of the Trop's latest plans to pump life into their property inspired a lot of good dialogue here. I'm in the camp that this could be a positive, but the conversation really got me thinking about more - so much that me, a poor example of a contributing member of the VT community, decided to let loose some thoughts. On first blush, I saw this project as a Las Vegas Strip version of the "inside-out malls" being constructed around the country.

After re-reading the post and the growing number of comments, my thoughts of the Trop expansion blew up into a broader premise: As far removed from reality that the tourist side of Las Vegas seems, in many ways it is just a twisted reflection of many American cities and communities. There are a few forces at work that have pushed the powers that be at the Tropicana to make this decision, and some of them align with what is taking place across the nation.

Las Vegas - most notably, the The Strip - continues to be a place of considerable change rooted in the gambling, entertainment, and tourist service industries. Its hyper-paced cycles of construction, destruction, reconstruction, and renovation are unmatched but the Strip's roots have a lot in common with many American communities. Reinvention courses through the veins of Las Vegas, as it has for decades.

The shift of development from Downtown Las Vegas out to the Strip was nearly in lock-step with that of people migrating from cities and towns out to new suburbs being built on raw land found on urban fringes. In the 1940's, the rise of suburbia was in full force. New housing was needed for GIs returning from WWII, mortgages made housing affordable to more families, and the availability of automobiles allowed Americans more freedom to roam and commute longer distances to work. Just as massive housing developments like Levittown, PA took root, the new generation of carpet joints were opening south of Downtown Vegas where large tracts of land were abundant. The rush to the (new and improved) American frontier was on once again!

Decades of hotel tower construction, implosions, and resort development were fueled by Vegas's virtual monopoly on gambling, availability of investment capital, and a widespread love affair for this Nevadan oasis. While the love affair is still strong, the monopoly has been hacked at by dozens of new markets and the capital has become considerably tighter. The "build it new" cycle of Strip development has been fading into a new era - one that appears to be marked by "making do with what you've got" for many property owners.

Value properties like Trop, Quad, and (arguably) joints like TI are caught in the middle of a nationwide demographic and preferential shift towards cities, towns, and environments that have an urban feel. Let's not mistake the gentrification of urban neighborhoods and shopping districts for the death of suburbs, although many Gen X/Gen Y/Millennials appear to be turning away from spread out suburban areas and are heading for walkable neighborhoods with a lot of proximate amenities.

We're seeing this in Downtown Vegas, where a resurgence in the original gambling district and Fremont East is being led by a culture less focused on oontz-clubs and shopping malls, and more in tune with street life, craft beers, and authentic experiences. The continued success of properties like Wynncore and Bellagio positively reflects upper-end market forces, but a struggling Tropicana attests to a lack of identity in a highly-competitive environment. Vegas consumers are seeing Strip resorts with growing deferred maintenance as less of a value when compared to the refreshed gambling halls located downtown where there is positive momentum.

Building within the Trop's setback between the Strip and its existing structures makes enough sense to where this isn't pure lunacy. Since there are no fountains of Bellagio there and tourists aren't heading to that property just to gaze at its exterior and be lured inside to spend their money, I can understand why they want to do this. Infill development on underutilized real estate is a valid play on an existing asset, and a potential way to squeeze cash flow out of it.

The outdoor mall/lifestyle center trend comparison that we've discussed on the Trop expansion thread is a bit looser than I first thought. These shopping centers are a clean (sterile) intepretation (romanticism) of a local business district (without the bums) brought out to a highway interchange (the height of convenience) near you. Generally, they have put pressure on indoor malls to reinvent themselves and can warrant higher lease values per square foot in some markets - even in some colder climate metros. What retailer wouldn’t want to locate into the new, shiny place after all?

While Tropicana's proposal has enough differences to where this isn't quite apples-to-apples, some of the concepts straddle the lines. The most glaring is the attempt to harness the vibrancy of pedestrian traffic and the street's energy. In this case, the street is Las Vegas Boulevard - one of the nation's most iconic and heavily traveled by foot. It gets significant pass-by automobile traffic despite being located at the end of the Strip (thanks to McCarran International Airport), so this renovation will be seen by many visitors.

Is this the thing for me? Probably not. How about you? But more importantly, is it a smart play for the Tropicana? Only time will tell, but you can see that its ownership wants to make this iconic name relevant in Las Vegas again. Grasping at the day club trend did not achieve this goal, but I commend them for dusting off and trying again. Shopping and dining experiences are integral to Sin City in the 21st century, and more people are looking for something different that is worth their time and money.

Building up a property's Strip frontage with leasable space that has the potential to cash flow positive is a legitimate business strategy. My trepidation about this not living up to its envisioned result lies with the "who" that will make it successful. Wynn's Promenade, Shops at Bellagio, and Caesars Forum Shops siphon the big spenders. Value seekers are being lured more and more downtown by the energy there, or even to some of the mid-strip properties that get you in the middle of the action. Who is it that will shop, dine, and spend here... and more importantly, come back on their next trip to do it all over again?

I hope that this works and pumps life into the Trop. At the same time, I would hate to see this catch on as a craze. Trends are a part of marketing and real estate development, but over-saturation of a concept in the Las Vegas market tarnishes the shine of such a unique place. Neon, a break from reality, and 10x odds craps games is the Vegas that I crave.


Comments & Discussion:

"Who is it that will shop, dine, and spend here...."

Middle America tourists from MGM Grand, Monte Carlo, NYNY, Excalibur and also MB and Luxor thanks to the tram. Alex Yeminidjian was one of Kirk Kerkorian's most trusted lieutenants. When Alex took over the Trop (2009?), the place was a disaster. He's kept it open and appealing to average tourists. And, thanks to the overhead walkways across Tropicana and across the Strip, it will be very convenient for everyone. I think it's an exciting use for that unused corner. Regarding weather, temps are ususally pleasant, even in winter, because of the sunshine. For tourists from many parts of the country, it's like springtime all year except for summer months which are slow in Vegas anyway.

The Tropicana will never again be the Tiffany of the Strip, but it is going to be an exciting property again for people who never set foot in Bellagio, Wynn, Encore and Aria.

Good stuff! I think being the spot Middle America is comfortable could be the best way to approach this project. For QSRs, I'd love to see Chipolte and Hot Dog on a Stick. "Fine" dining options might be a Claim Jumper (or some other mid-range product from Landry's). The retail is tougher. What's missing on the strip that might have a draw? What about this?: A MAN MALL...a place for NASCAR Dads, that Soccer Moms won't mind being?!?!
-Dick's Sporting Goods...or, even better, Cabella's
-An L.L. Bean store
-Wilson's Leather
-New Balance or some other shoes
-a grilling store (does Webber run stores...would they create one?)
-Brookstone (stop groaning!)
-maybe a store selling aftermarket accessories for SUVs

What else? Help me out here Vegas Trippers!

detroit1051 - Great point about access to the property. Pedestrian flow is a critical element and those walkways + tram are assets to funneling people there.

I'd agree that Downtown and Freemont East have successfully redefined themselves in a way that mirrors America's urban cores as a whole. And you can only have so many luxury resorts.

So it's no surprise the entire east side of the strip from Harrah's to the Trop caters to the mid-market. So does everything south of Monte Carlo, except perhaps Mandalay. (Yes, I'm ignoring MGM's Mansion and baller suites.) Thus, there's no shortage of mid-market, which is why I think themed hotels would do well again. It turns a mediocre casino experience into a memorable destination.

Beyond that, the Trop would do better if there was anything -- anything! -- south of it, because a half-finished Ferris wheel isn't cutting it.

As for the inside-out concepts Sir Charles Monster has mentioned, I'm drawn to the color photo embedded above. Those sorts of drive-up low-rise retail clusters are really popular in my little corner of suburbia. Think of it as a roofless mall you can drive your car through and park at the store's front door.

The great thing about a mall (traditional or roofless) versus a signature oontz club is that it's way less risky. When a high-end attraction fails, it's written about and remembered forever (Nikki Beach/Bagatelle). But if an individual store in a mall fails, it closes and something else replaces it. Plus, the individual stores are responsible for bringing the wow factor, not the mall's owner.

@NeverJustJ -- I've seen a meaty Weber restaurant. Not sure about a retail store. It also would be cool to get the Harley store (or another motorcycle brand that merchandises well) to relocate to your man mall. Something that speaks geek (an Apple store? remote-controlled cars/copters? collectables?) would do well, also.

@NeverJustJ Man Mall? I like it
Bass Pro Shops?
Container Store?
Camping World?
Golf Town?
Condom City?

I think leaning towards the middle market will do them well. It will be a destination for every tourist in that part of the Strip and peel off customers of the Fashion Show Mall since it will be closer. Weber doesn't do stores but the Weber Grill here in Chicago does steady business. There was a long time ago a New Balance store in PH but it didn't last. I could see a number of smaller retailers there and if Robert Irvine is leasing a space perhaps another high end dining spot would be on one end with his place on the other. The food court will have to avoid duplication with the one in Excalibur so no Popeye's but a Chipolte or an Adobo Grill would fit right in. I do think this is a very big deal that could boost Trop higher on the food chain in their area.

I like the analogy, nice work Chuck, for years I thought the thing that downtown needed was options outside of the casino, I don't (I know I wasn't alone in this). I don't know if it's my preference for how things are moving in cities or not, but I think it's the right move for the Trop, and similar to Linq.

There are definitely risks to over saturating the environment, but what leasing does here is give these properties some flexibility in the future, if one concept doesn't work then another can come in and given that these conglamorates aren't exactly flexible and creative, there should be more creativity and ability for smaller operators to come up with something new.

oops, I missed the lines under the title, nice job Jerry.

I'd put a toy store in there. To my knowledge, there is no place on the strip to buy toys (other than Nordstrom's at the Fashion Show Mall). There's a huge, untapped market of guilty parents wanting to bring gifts back for their kids, something other than the cheap souvenir trinkets emblazoned with Las Vegas.

I think the Trop and Excalibur do the best jobs on the Strip of wasting valuable real estate. All that surface parking is wasteful and ugly. Yes, Trop could make better use of that asset.

I think if someone is hell-bent on visiting the M&M Store, they're going to find their way into MGM Grand. Anyone visiting Madame Tussauds is gonna find themselves at Venelazzo. Go ahead, stick retail up front; it will bring people closer to to the Trop than they are now. The Bellagio fountain is a great example, because not only does it get people to stand on the street *near* the Bellagio, the show is even better if you're seated at Circo or Olives or Picasso.

As for a drive-thru inverted mall? On the strip? No thanks. I like them, except for that whole driving part -- and Paris and Miracle Mile and Forum Shops all do that. They're single-floor "outdoor" shopping malls without the oppressing Vegas sun or traffic. I'd welcome a well-done inverted mall, especially if it doesn't bake my skin off.


There used to be an FAO Schwarz at the Forum Shops, but it closed back in early 2010 as Toys R Us decided not to renew the lease on the space (It didn't stay empty too long, as by the end of the year, H&M moved into the space, which is a massive 50,000 square foot space over three levels.). Toys R Us does have an outlet store at the Las Vegas Premium Outlets South.

I'm going to throw out a thought, what about one of Best Buy's smaller footprint stores or maybe a one of their "mobile only" stores? Other than the Apple Stores, there's not any places on The Strip to buy cell phones or tablets and OEM accessories for devices (Porsche Design over at Crystals does sell their BlackBerry-based phones, but the average person isn't dropping $2K+ for one of them.).

I remember the FAO Schwarz at the Forum and never remembered the place being full or popular. The toy store market is kind of dead but there are a few specialty stores out there such as Build a Bear. You could throw a small American Girl Doll inside the mall and it would be very popular any day before dad leaves for home. A small Best Buy could happen if they got their financial huse in order or even a small Fry's.

Build-a-Bear...another good one, although their website shows a location at Fashion Show but there's probably enough demand for two on the Strip. I like the idea of someone doing personal electronics. What about one of Target's new smaller, urban stores?

I agree with big744, it wouldn't hurt to have some type of place to buy a souvenir for a kid, I'm not sure what the concept needs to be, but it's definitely an underserved piece of retail on the strip. As levans said FAO schwartz was there, but anytime I walked into it, it amazed me as to how much crap they had. It was like an 80's time warp of bad toys.

NeverjustJ, I believe there used to be a build a bear at Miracle Mile as well, at least I bought one there for the kid years ago, when they were advertising that the white tiger was Vegas specific, not sure if its still in the mile too.

I do believe something like the new Disney store at Fashion show is a good idea, at least they appear to be attempting to make the store a bit unique, with so much oversaturation these days, these stores on the strip that are everywhere else are losing out on a bit of the market by not trying diversifying themselves a bit, sure they still get the out of country tourists that may not be familiar with their store or have access to them, but for those with XXYY near them, whats their reason for visiting.

I like Vespajet's idea of a Best Buy location there..focusing on phones, memory cards, iPods and stuff that can fit in not a whole lot of square footage...a smaller Apple Store wouldn't be a bad idea either..NYC has the primary Apple store not far from Times Square and a smaller Apple Store in Grand Central Station...

I still think an In and Out location would do well at the Trop..it could be a draw to get people inside and play for a while..it would work for me..a smaller Starbucks works too..look I know there are tons of them already on the Strip, but one more won't hurt..

A Craft Beer bar would work too..

Detailed plans for Trop's new corner development will go to Zoning Department 11/20. Major undertaking, relocating hotel lobby and moving exterior pedestrian walkway escalators.


Comments Are Closed

Subscribe via RSS

Recent Comments:

michigan2010 posted: "MGM equals cookie cutter casino. No to reason to step foot in Bellagio again. Just hope they don't screw up..."
» Sayonara Bellagio Table Game Canopies...
saharalv posted: "I wish the editors were the entire electoral college in 2016...."
» Introducing the Trippies Class of...
fatbastard posted: "So many people letting a billionaire live rent free in their heads. Funny. Too bad it also detracts from the..."
» Introducing the Trippies Class of...
wpsteel66 posted: "Total bummer…talk about taking the class and uniqueness away from the Bellagio…another smart move on CEO Jim and making all..."
» Sayonara Bellagio Table Game Canopies...
damania posted: "Is there a podcast?..."
» Introducing the Trippies Class of...

» More Comments