I just returned from the Urban Land Institute's Fall Meetings, in Las Vegas. I don't know why it's called "Sin City." I have observed that each city in which humans cluster is filled with people sinning. I believe that religions would be bereft of meaning if they did not.
Vegas, at least, has political leaders and a business community dedicated to its progress. The sponsorships for these meetings broke all records, and they come from all local organizations. Of course their traffic is terrible, but that's part of all fast-growing places where people just cannot do without cars. It is like a permanent romance or marriage from which it seems there is no divorce.
There were myriads of economists sharing their feelings about next year, and with one exception -- a TV personality devoted to this administration's silent treatment of this sad economy who said environmentalists were formerly known as communists; so much for his objectivity -- they agreed that the economy is disappointing and did not expect it to spring to life until well into next year. In addition, there was the feeling that real estate in most areas was in a state of eroding prices.
Steve Wynn, the magnificent promotional development impresario, who -- along with the irascible Mayor Oscar Goodman -- are fun to listen to and be with. Wynn had once been thought of as the "destroyer of Las Vegas" because it was believed his new Mirage Hotel would cannibalize other hotels and never be profitable because he was spending too much money per room. But it was a great success, in fact broadening the appeal and reach of the city.
He is an audacious developer who represents more than resorts, more than development. Even though he is losing his eyesight, he can see more than almost any developer I have ever met. He is out of the Gerald Hines and Ernie Hahn mold, gathering the most creative architects, planners and landscapers to his creations so that their own aspirations can be elevated and inspired developers can cause to happen.
This is the need for all political leaders -- that they constantly raise their constituencies' aspirations. All design can be cathedrals that raise the spirits of their users and inhabitants instead of constant repetition of mediocrity. Inspiration does not have to be costly, just creative and perhaps unexpected. Wynn's newest hotel will be a $2 billion affair, in English called "The Dream," in French, Le Reeve.
Across the street, the new strip shopping center addition, Fashion Show, will be the size of 33 football fields and dwarf any other center. It will be a constant fashion fantasy of 300 stores and an 80-foot fashion runway that rises hydraulically, on which famous designers will offer daily shows and perhaps bring more joy to tourists than any other stage.
Wynn feels Las Vegas is much more than gaming. I feel it is a unique place because some great, inspired minds have gathered to make a true oasis fantasy out of sand and imagination. Deprivation frequently allows the senses to be more creative, so here in the desert is landscaping that God would have used on His Garden of Eden (if He had had the budget). Of course there is water waste and pretentious presentation that attracts millions of people each year. They stay there longer than in any other gaming city, for there is so much more to do.
God gave us the ocean so that we could sail our imaginations to unknown places in the face of cynics who warned them of "falling off the flat earth." He also gave us the deserts so that more than Pharos could build eternal memories of their creativity and power. Vegas is imperfect, of course, but so are we all and all that we build, otherwise we would all be gods, and that is not meant to be, thank God.