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After delay, plans for upscale mall at McCarran move ahead

More than a year after the announced opening date, a plan to build a small upscale mall in McCarran International Airport’s cavernous Concourse D rotunda appears to be progressing.

Engineering problems had stalled the project. Although aesthetically impressive, the rotunda’s 86-foot height created hurdles and the potential for major cost overruns for a mundane but critical reason: the need to extend fire sprinklers to the stores far below. In recent weeks, the discussions including management at McCarran and Hudson Group, the concessionaire leading the project, have resumed progress.

Hudson spokeswoman Laura Samuels said in an emailed statement that the “McCarran Marketplace project is indeed moving forward … (on) a number of complex code and engineering issues, which are now nearing resolution.”

She added that there’s no new timetable for the start of construction or the opening and she did not detail what steps will be taken.

However, she added, “Much of the design work for the interior and exterior of these high-end retail stores has been completed.”

The Clark County Commission approved the mall two years ago. And Hudson, the majority owner of the entity that oversees all of the airport’s nonfood retailing, expected to cut the ribbon in November 2012.

Even early this year, McCarran officials hoped to be ready by the start of the World Routes airline conference in early October.

To date, however, no work has occurred that is visible to the millions of people who pass through Concourse D every year.

The plan originally envisioned three retailers, including Hugo Boss, Juicy Couture and Guess, placed around the rotunda’s perimeter, with kiosks for Kiehl’s beauty products and Hudson house brand Tech on the Go occupying kiosks in the middle. Samuels reported “significant progress in lining up the final assortment” of brands, but divulged no specifics.

The marketplace will mimic the layout of many large foreign airports, which funnel passengers through a phalanx of stores between security checkpoints and gates. Passengers flying on Concourse D airlines — United, Delta, US Airways, American and Hawaiian — must pass through the rotunda to catch the trams to the baggage claim and ticket counters either in Terminals 1 or 3.

Although the idea for the mall was written into the airport’s master retail plan in 2010, McCarran officials initially held back. They wanted to gauge the traffic patterns and numbers once Terminal 3 opened in June 2012.

The timetable accelerated when Hudson brought its concept and retailers to the table. It was included as a high-profile component of a deal that extended its McCarran lease by a decade to 2030 in return for investing $15.5 million on improved retailing throughout the airport.

McCarran spokesman Chris Jones said Hudson has already kept $7 million of that commitment by opening a lineup of stores in Terminal 3. Hudson has until the end of 2014 to fulfill the rest.

The original Marketplace budget stood at nearly $3.5 million, with Hudson kicking in $2.2 million and the airport adding about $1.2 million to cover basic hardware such as wiring. It is unknown whether that will change.

Contact reporter Tim O’Reiley at toreiley@reviewjournal.com or at 702-387-5290.

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