MGM Resorts Unveils High-End Expansion Plan For Prime Las Vegas Strip Locale

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In the vast, neon-lit cityscape of Las Vegas, a once-confounding real estate acquisition by MGM Resorts in 2023 finally makes sense. The lasered-in focus centers on a 1.62-acre strip of land wedged between the Bellagio and the Cosmopolitan. The ostensibly indefinable $54 million purchase raised eyebrows, but with the recent leak of Clark County permit applications, the puzzling transaction divulges its true purpose.

Renderings found within the permit applications illuminate MGM’s plans for a suave, multi-level expansion of the Bellagio, cryptically titled Project Mojave. The artist impressions depict a three-story plaza springing from the hotel’s main entrance, beckoning foot traffic from the thrumming Las Vegas Boulevard. The cosmopolitan, another jewel in MGM’s crown, serves as the striking backdrop to the renderings.

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Notably, the Cosmopolitan’s resident service road will remain undisturbed by the new venture. However, the existing elevated bridge connecting the Strip to the Bellagio – stripped of a people-mover feature in 2017 as a cost-saving measure – appears destined for retirement.

Project Mojave’s bold designs promise an infusion of high-end retail outlets and gastronomic havens — the former on the first two floors and the latter under the open skies on the third. Its crowning glory will be a chic 10,000 square foot rooftop nightclub, complete with a glittering pool, presiding over the iconic Bellagio fountains and the Strip. Pedestrians will be guided to this plaza by large LED signs and convenient bridges from the Cosmopolitan and Planet Hollywood. It’s important to note though, Project Mojave is likely a code name, an indication of the design’s source, Marnell Architecture, not the official moniker for the finished structure.

This thin strip of land has a deeper story than first appears. Under the tenure of Steve Wynn, the Bellagio’s previous owner, the land was reluctantly leased due to the owner’s refusal to sell. MGM, upon purchasing the property for an astounding $6.4 billion in 2000, inherited this lease. In an apt twist of fate, after the acquisition of the neighboring Cosmopolitan operating rights from Blackstone for $1.6 billion in 2022, MGM exercised their option to purchase the land last year.

Once considered an underutilized asset, this sliver of land, merely a few hundred feet, served as a utility road, parking lot, and waste storage for MGM. With the new venture, Clark County now faces rezoning the previously vacant slot to accommodate MGM’s ambitious project. However, MGM is yet to reveal a timeline for construction or completion of the project.

Given the recent selling spree, this piece of land stands as a rare tangible asset in MGM Resort’s ownership along the Las Vegas Strip. The phrase ‘casino property ownership’ often alludes to operational rights rather than physical property deeds. In 2019, MGM offloaded the Bellagio’s property assets to Blackstone Real Estate Income Trust (BREIT) as a part of a $4.25 billion sale-leaseback deal. Subsequently, BREIT, the Cherng Family Trust, and Stonepeak Partners pooled in $4 billion for the acquisition of the Cosmopolitan’s property which was off-market even when MGM made the $5.65 billion purchase from Blackstone in 2021.