New Ormsby House buyer: ‘It will never be a hotel-casino again’
CARSON CITY, Nev. — Joe D’Angelo has a different vision for the long-shuttered Ormsby House, one he says will be unique in Carson City.
D’Angelo is in escrow to buy the 48-year-old hotel-casino but is having some trouble convincing city officials of his idea because they still see the Ormsby House as a hotel-casino.
“This property will not survive under the old conditions,” he said Tuesday while sitting down with the Nevada Appeal. “It will never be a hotel-casino again.”
Escrow is supposed to close Oct. 17. He said he agreed to the asking price of $15 million for the property. He’s buying the Ormsby House, the attached parking garage and the small block to the south that is now occupied by the closed ARCO gas station.
He said the money to develop the project will come from a long list of benefactors.
“I have no investors,” D’Angelo said. “I have benefactors.”
Those benefactors, he said, include corporations and foundations that get tax benefits from supporting such projects.
He said his preliminary budget to fully develop the project is north of $75 million.
D’Angelo says key to the deal is what happens Oct. 1 at the city’s Major Plan Review.
“The city’s trying to force me into a special use permit, which I do not believe I need,” D’Angelo said. “With a special use permit they lock you in. They want their nose inside my business.”
He said the property really isn’t changing to a different use because it will still be a hotel with several restaurants. It just won’t have gambling, alcohol or smoking.
As head of the nonprofit Joshua’s Community for some 30 years, he said, “I don’t feed addictions; I treat them.”
Kim Fiegehen, who represents the sellers, said D’Angelo has proved that he has enough money to buy the building.
D’Angelo said he took care of one major city concern: that since Joshua’s Community is a 501(c)3, he would escape room, sales and property taxes. He said he has never filed for a tax exemption and won’t if he gets the Ormsby House.
“So they will collect their 11 percent room tax,” he said. “Property taxes are $73,000 a year.”
He said Carson City also would get money from construction work on the project as well as from the estimated 350 jobs the project will create.
Fiegehen said inspectors have gone through the building and that the reports have come back “stellar.”
D’Angelo said Don Lehr did “a beautiful job” of rebuilding and preparing the Ormsby House for what he wants to do and he’s hoping to close the deal in October.
Fiegehen conceded that other potential buyers have started escrow and failed to close the deal but she said that D’Angelo is farther along than any of those parties ever made it.
D’Angelo said contrary to what some people have said, the project isn’t for the homeless and isn’t a convalescent center. He said the first four floors will be public with restaurants, convention and meeting rooms, showroom space for shows, concerts, plays and even graduations.
He said he is looking into making what was the casino area into “a sunken living room with a water feature and a domed ceiling above it.”
He has interested businesses including a butcher shop and an old-fashioned New York deli with an organic salad bar, a coffee house with pastries and a complete burger bar as well as a family restaurant.
At the north end of the main floor, he envisions a culinary arts school. On the second floor, he wants to restore the showroom and wants to use the original name, the Crystal Terese Ballroom.
In fact, while it will be called Joshua House, he plans to honor and preserve the Ormsby House history with a museum on the first floor.
On the third floor, he said there will be 25 hotel rooms available to the public and upstairs, another 25 rooms potentially for legislators during session.
The rest of the floors, he said, will be suites for rent to anyone 18 and up, not just seniors.
D’Angelo said he believes those suites will get the interest of baby boomers who no longer need a big house to take care of and, since some of those people come with medical issues, he is hoping to provide internships for medical students from area colleges who could then provide services to some of them.
On the fourth floor where there was once a swimming pool — that leaked for years — he said he wants a hydroponics and horticulture “extravaganza.”
Along with that, the separate ARCO property, he said, would become a commercial hydroponics farm.
This isn’t the first project D’Angelo has proposed. In 2010, Joshua’s Community proposed a community near Pahrump along Clark County’s border he said would house up to 30,000 people on 6,400 acres of land including a convention center, fairgrounds and sports complexes.
The project was never built, at least in part because it was proposed on BLM land that already included an electric transmission corridor and protections for the Desert Tortoise, according to a spokesman for Nye County.
D’Angelo said the Ormsby House plan is ambitious but that he knows how to make it work.
“It’s basic business,” he said. “If you have what people need, they will be there.”
He said he already has a significant number of people interested.
“Before I open, we will have a line out the door,” he said.
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