With the economic beatdown Las Vegas has taken the last few years, the opening of Tivoli Village on Thursday brought a sense of optimism among business owners, city officials and developers of the $700 million retail, dining and office center.
"This is fabulous. This is really something," Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said. "God forbid there should be a natural disaster and destroy this place. Archaeologists would come here and try to figure out this town and they couldn't figure it out."
About 15 retailers and three restaurants were open for business following the ribbon cutting in the morning, with Brio Tuscan Grille picking up a majority of customers by noon.
Petra's Greek Taverna served hors d'oeuvres and drinks at the bar, but the restaurant won't officially open until May 5. Cafe Leone, an Italian coffee shop with baked goods, was also open.
Ray Nisi of Double Helix Boutique said it was a "no-brainer" to take 5,000 square feet at Tivoli for his new restaurant, Bottles and Burgers, to open in September.
Nisi, originally from New York, came to Las Vegas three years ago to open Double Helix Wine Bar at the Shoppes at Palazzo and has taken over the former Grape restaurant at Town Square Las Vegas for his next venture, Double Helix Wine and Whiskey Lounge, which will open in about four weeks.
"This is an extension of what we're doing," Nisi said. "We loved it right away and we're right at the front entrance."
The European-style Tivoli Village, which takes its name from Tivoli Fountains in Italy, has 225,000 square feet of stores and restaurants and 145,000 square feet of office space. The retail space is about 72 percent leased; the office space is 55 percent leased.
Frank Pankratz, president of Executive Home Builders, said the project's 300,000-square-foot second phase will be finished by the holiday season in 2012, doubling the size of Tivoli Village. A third phase will add another 300,000 square feet by the end of 2013.
Executive Home Builders and IDB Group, joint developers of Tivoli Village, will go before the Las Vegas planning commission May 10 for approval of Las Vegas Renaissance, an enclosed mall planned for the 23-acre parcel across Alta Drive. IDB bought the land last year from KeyBank, which had foreclosed on the property at Boca Fashion Village.
Pankratz said the developers will "play it a little bit by ear" in building Tivoli's planned 320-unit residential component, subject to the housing market and the economy.
Bob Kolesar, partner in the law firm Kolesar and Leatham, said the developers were "aggressive and enthusiastic" in courting his firm to move from West Sahara Avenue, where he's been for 25 years. He leased 30,000 square feet, or the entire top floor at one office building.
"I love it. It's better than I ever thought it would be," Kolesar said after the opening. "You're in Summerlin, right off the freeway. You can get to the courts in 10 to 12 minutes."
Las Vegas City Manager Elizabeth Fretwell said Tivoli and the coming developments will create a hub of commercial activity for the area.
"It's fantastic for our city to have this major growth and development," she said. "It's been a long four or five years of slow growth and it's nice to see some development going on."
Kolesar looked at downtown and at Hughes Center, but kept coming back to Tivoli Village.
"They had a model and a rendering and they were building in the midst of the crisis," he said. "That kind of optimism is catchy."
Contact reporter Hubble Smith at email@example.com or 702-383-0491.