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Building A Landscape: Commercial

DENNE GOLDSTEIN | Business Articles

Las Vegas has a reputation for glitz and glamour and the latest addition, the Wynn Las Vegas, does not disappoint. The project was conceived by SteveWynn, famous for creating other Las Vegas landmarks, as an upscale resort to pamper its guests, and no detail went unnoticed. For example, on one of the walk-throughs, Wynn noticed big, beautiful Ficus nitadas were planted outside the front entrance. Wynn didn’t like the grayish color of the trunks, so the landscape architects came up with a safe vegetable dye to paint the tree trunks a darker color. I must say, they are very striking.

Trees weighing up to 200,000 lbs were held in a staging area until ready for planting.

But, I’m not here to talk about the hotel; its massive size and style makes its own statement. I want to talk about the landscape. There are so many parts to this project and each area could be a story on its own. This was more than just another landscape contract; this was a job of massive proportions.

In addition to the $23 million ValleyCrest Companies received for building and installing plants, pools, mountains, etc., the contract called for all the plant material to be supplied by the owner. This could easily add another $10 to $20 million to the project. According to the landscape architect, the overall budget for the landscape was well over $75 million.

Lifescapes International, Newport Beach, California, was the landscape architect on the project. CEO Don Brinkerhoff, his wife Barbara, their daughter Julie and their entire crew lived this job 24-7. Working hand-in-glove with ValleyCrest Landscape Development, they were able, as a team, to overcome most of the adversities and bring the job in on time.

To coordinate any commercial landscape project takes special skills; however, this one had to test the mettle of the best. Observing a project being built, with various building tradesmen weaving their ways around one another, and then to see it come to fruition is like watching an orchestra playing a concert, with the piece ending in a final crescendo. I marvel when I see these completed projects.

However, this one really tops them all. This was a glamour project that needed extra special attention and tender loving care, and the owner was willing to pay for it. It puts pressure on all the contractors from all the building trades to be very careful. Along with the additional care (that usually slows a job down a little), there are the time constraints.

Because of these time constraints, many trades are working on the job at the same time. They don’t have the luxury of waiting for construction to be finished before the landscape is installed. And the other trades are so intense on their own work, they don’t seem to see the newly planted landscape, and have a tendency to walk and step on it instead of walking around it, even though it is quite a site.

It boggles the mind when you begin to think about what took place in the desert in Nevada. To give you an idea of the size of this project, Steve Wynn spent $2.7 billion. He took trees from the old Desert Inn golf course and stored them in a staging area. These trees weighed between 95,000 pounds and 200,000 pounds. He also brought in trees from two other golf courses from out of state and had them delivered to the staging area. In addition to these trees, an additional 4,800 trees were purchased from a number of nurseries in Nevada, California and Arizona.

Try buying 82,000 five- and fifteen-gallon shrubs in the open market. Add to this 12,000 mums, 10,000 azaleas, 8,000 coleus, plus thousands of hydrangeas and all the orchids that were available in California, Utah and New Mexico, and then installing them.

Part of the mountain is veiwed from the Japanese garden and restaurant area.

Eighteen pools were built by ValleyCrest; the two main swimming pools are attached by a canal pool. Twenty food kiosks are on site, with a number of restaurants-- each with its own dcor and landscaped to match the ethnicity of the cuisine. For example, the Chinese restaurant has a little enclosed garden planted with 100-year-old pomegranate trees; the Japanese restaurant has a pool with

waterfalls and lotus flowers surrounded by clusters of bamboo and a majestic willow tree. There is a French garden, an Italian garden, and an English garden built in various sections of the resort, and topiaries highlight the walkways and planted areas.

Spread across twenty acres, the landscape architect used color as a highlight to accent the greenery that surrounds the resort. Even indoors, Podocarpus trees line the walkways and, in what has become a Wynn signature, an extravagant display of blooming flowers that dazzle the guests as they walk by.

With all the visitors expected to visit the Wynn, the landscape took on a special meaning. Color was planted inside the turf area, as a separation between the turf and the shrubs and to keep pedestrians from stepping all over the annuals. Because irrigation is an integral part of the landscape, especially in a desert environment, it too needed a lot of thought. It is interesting to note that there are no overhead sprinklers on this project. The entire project was installed with drip irrigation. All the planting areas, the trees, the color, even the trees and shrubs on the mountain are irrigated through a drip system.

New thinking on how to feed all this plant material also came into play. Through the drip irrigation system, the entire property is being fed via the fertigation method. In addition, 156,000 square feet of synthetic turf was installed throughout the project. Not a single blade of natural turf was used. Synthetic turf was used because the architect felt that the natural turf would not hold up to all of the pedestrian traffic. In addition, The City of Las Vegas carefully monitors water consumption; the use of synthetic turf will save millions of gallons of water.

The use of Star Jasmine instead of wrought iron for gaurd rails not only adds a unique look, but smells nice too.

However, the highlight of this project is Wynn Mountain. The resort sits on the old Desert Inn site, on the corner of Las Vegas Boulevard (The Strip) and Sands Boulevard. Wynn wanted to have his guests feel that they were at a retreat and somewhat secluded from the outside. From the property you could see a retail mall across the street on Las Vegas Boulevard, so Lifescapes International came up with the idea of building a mountain to shield the property. They built the mountain, 100 feet high out of gabions, old concrete, steel mesh, etc. Then 50-foot-high pines and other plant materials were planted on top of the mountain, providing a 150 foot high screen.

Once the skeleton of the mountain was built, thousands of Aleppo Pines ( pinus halapensis), as well as shrubs were planted. In addition, magnificent waterfalls were built into the mountain. A 600-ton crane was used to place hundreds of trees. Not only does Wynn Mountain buffer the resort from the heavy street noise, it also makes a wonderful backdrop for the inside of the property. Millions of lights illuminate the trees on the mountain every evening, and the waterfalls cascade day and night.

Pooted planters add the finishing touch.

As contractors, we are well aware of the cost of labor, so the logistics of a project this size is one that is very complex. Proper scheduling and use of personnel is a major factor in whether any job makes a profit, breaks even or loses money.

This job called for union labor, and the first concern was to find labor that was drug-free. The Wynn Las Vegas has its own program for drug testing, and so does ValleyCrest Landscape Development. Once that was accomplished, they had to find workers who had some field experience, which wasn’t always possible, and company personnel had to train the labor on the job.

When the landscape project began, it started with a very small crew, staking out areas, planting some of the larger trees, etc. Work really began in earnest around August 2004. A working crew of about 30 people increased up to150 at times, especially in the last few months when everyone was working against the clock. Some work had to be scheduled at night or very early in the morning hours because of the street traffic on the strip. ValleyCrest has had an office in Las Vegas for more than 20 years, so they were able to get some of their supervisors from there.

Moving a crew of 150 in tight areas, working around crews from other trades, and sometimes working around the clock is not done very often. Add to that moving 200,000 pound trees, planting more than 5,000 trees and over 100,000 shrubs makes this project very demanding.

At the hotel’s grand opening, Brinkerhoff remarked, “This job is one of the highlights of our long relationship with ValleyCrest. It’s their amazing work on all our jobs that makes these landscapes famous.”

No natural turf was used on this project. Synthetic turf, to handle heavey foot trafic, is scaloped by gazanias and shurbbery.

ValleyCrest has landscaped many high-profile projects across the country, including most of the hotels in Las Vegas,”But,” said ValleyCrest CEO Burton Sperber, “Wynn Las Vegas tops them all. It’s the single most beautiful job we have ever done. It is a real tribute to the talented people working for ValleyCrest that this job went in as well as it did.”

When the Wynn Las Vegas opened at 12:01 a.m. on April 28, 2005, the results were spectacular. Not only were all the trees and shrubs in place, the floral displays were dazzling and the landscape and the resort looked like it had been there for years.

Does landscaping enhance a property and make a difference? You bet it does--just see for yourself. Due to all the publicity and high visibility of this project, the image of the landscape contractor has been greatly enhanced. Add another jewel to the landscaping crown of ValleyCrest Companies.

 
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