If only for a moment, standing in the center of Tivoli Village during their grand opening and listening to an electric string quartet perform a cover of “Dream On” by Aerosmith, I got it. I understood why a company would insist on an $850 million budget and refuse to downscale even during the Great Recession. Phat Strad’s beautiful, full sounds swept through the European-inspired walkways while a man sold single-stem roses from a push cart and a little girl squirmed in her seat while posing for a caricature drawing. This was a lovely experience—the kind builders stressed during media previews was of the utmost importance.
Then, Phat Strad stopped playing and my mind stopped filling with daydreams of European travels. I window-shopped, mostly at Charming Charlie’s accessory shop, one of the few retail outlets open during this initial phase of the Summerlin complex. And finally, it was time to go.
I returned on a non-ribbon cutting day to see how the mirage stood up. There, without the street performers and men selling flowers, Tivoli Village’s offerings were clearer: “Cell 4 U!” kiosks, $4 mocha frappes and one too many strategically placed Land Rovers from the on-site dealership. It’s a glorified strip mall, a fancier Town Square with the same kind of restaurants and shops (like Brio, which has locations at both). In times like these, you have to hope new ventures do well—if only to help the people working the jobs they’ve created and to save our streets from even more abandoned retail space—but I can’t help wondering what might happen if our city ditched the idea of imitating a European community and really backed its own.