Published Monday, Oct. 13, 2014
You might think imploding a Las Vegas resort is not child’s play. But in the Doumani family, it is.
At 12:01 a.m. Jan. 13, young Dylan Doumani is to drop the plunger to bring down the one-time Clarion and Debbie Reynolds Hotel and set off an overnight party to be co-hosted by neighboring Piero’s Italian Restaurant.
It all sounds like something out of a Disney movie, really, and it is appropriate that Dylan spent his 7th birthday (which was Saturday) at Disneyland in Anaheim.
As it is, his father, Lorenzo, is looking to make the ratty Clarion the happiest place on earth, or at least on Convention Center Drive. Doumani bought the property in October for $22.5 million. The Clarion closed for good on Labor Day, and put most of its inventory up for sale through the month of September.
Doumani is now the sole owner of that property, paying cash for the old building that opened as the Royal Inn in 1980 and that was owned by Reynolds in the 1990s before tumbling into bankruptcy.
Eager for the neighborhood to develop around him over the next few years, Doumani’s immediate plans are at once destructive and lofty.
“We’re blowing it up,” Doumani said during an interview last week at Tommy Bahama Restaurant & Bar in Town Square. “And then we’re going to make it something mega, unlike anything you’ve seen in Las Vegas.”
This will not be a massive mall, nor a locals casino. It won’t offer any gaming at all, actually.
“It’s nongaming, and it’ll be some kind of mixed-use property,” Doumani says. “It is going to be very cool, trust me.”
The cost is anywhere from $500 million to $1 billion, with Doumani relying upon a cash stream from Congress’s EB-5 program, which allows international investors to gain citizenship in exchange for investment in U.S. real estate projects.
“I’ll be able to fund the project cost,” Doumani says confidently. “I’m in a unique position to raise money, and I’ve been very fortunate and have done really well in my career.”
In the end, the project will reflect Doumani’s brimming-with-magnanimity disposition and ample wealth.
“My board of directors is me and my split personality,” the 51-year-old Doumani said grinning while sipping a colorful cocktail. “Making this deal was easy. I had no financing. It was a cash deal.”
Doumani has a throwback way of doing business. He is an Old Vegas personality, for sure.
“Las Vegas has become too corporate,” he asserts, not surprisingly. “The city has lost its personality. I want a place that has big personality and style, great amenities. … We’ll have six restaurants and great, unique entertainment.”
Doumani says that if he secures approval from the FAA and Clark County commissioners, his tower “will be looking down on the Wynn. It’ll be 20 feet taller, and it will have a novel design.” He jokes, or maybe not, of re-creating the famous TV commercial where Wynn was set atop his own hotel via helicopter.
Certainly, if these grand designs are fully realized, the new hotel will be towering, in its stature and provenance. The Doumanis are a family long famous in Las Vegas. Lorenzo’s uncle Fred was known as “The Landlord” at the Tropicana in the 1970s, and the family also owned La Concha on the Strip (Lorenzo’s father, Ed, was the original owner). Lorenzo Doumani helped arrange for the delivery of the famed building to the Neon Museum, where it serves as that attraction’s lobby.
Doumani also is the landlord of the property on which the Peppermill sits. In 2007, when he was head of Majestic Resorts, he executed a sale of the 5.4 acres between Peppermill and Riviera on the Strip to Triple Five for $180 million, or $33 million an acre (Triple Five is now attempting to sell that land for about half that price, $16 million an acre).
Doumani is not yet ready to specify what is in store on Convention Center Drive. The anticipated expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center to the east and Genting Group’s Vegas Resorts World of Las Vegas on the Strip to the west will create a natural tourist corridor for this new hotel.
“We’re timing our opening to coincide with the Convention Center and Resorts World,” Doumani says. “I feel within three years of the implosion, we’ll be open, which would be by December 2017.”
What to call this resort? Doumani owes to the obvious.
“I like the Doumani, or Doumani’s,” he says, smiling. “It’s a possible name, maybe.”
If nothing else, it is the front-runner. Check in after the implosion.