Irwin Molasky Feature: Mr. Everything

Irwin Molasky Feature: Mr. Everything - DiamondCake.comAs seen on DiamondCake.com
April 2012 article entitled “Mr. Everything” by Tony Illia

A stately office building stands sentinel over  downtown Las Vegas, safeguarding its once  fragile future. Nestled north of the northeast  edge of Symphony Park, the 17-story concreteand-  glass tower is the city’s first office building to obtain  gold-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental  Design [LEED] certification. Indeed, the $100-milliondollar  Molasky Corporate Center sets a new standard for  sustainable construction. The eco-friendly high-rise counts  the Southern Nevada Water Authority as its main tenant,  but the top floor is reserved for the building’s namesake  developer, Irwin Molaksy. The stylishly designed lobby of  the Molasky Group of Companies features marble floors  and black Ostrich leather furniture with modern chrome and  glass accent tables. A white backdrop wall is patterned with  recessed fleurs-de-lis – Molasky’s company logo – with three  leaves historically representing those who worked, fought  and prayed in French culture.

Molasky graciously greets me in the lobby, guiding me  through the airy space lined with floor-to-ceiling windows.  Natural light floods the meticulously clean interior where  everything is neatly ordered. Models, photos and awards  from a half century of development projects testify to  Molasky’s lasting legacy. His pioneering spirit has forever  changed the landscape of Southern Nevada. As a real  estate developer Molasky’s professional portfolio is wildly  diverse, encompassing homes and condominiums, hotels and  hospitals, office buildings and golf courses. He moved to Las  Vegas when the town had only 25,000 people and three-party  phone lines. It was never in doubt what he would do.

Molasky built his first five-unit apartment complex in  California at age 18, doing all the concrete work himself.  “I grew up in the building business. During summer time,  I would work on the construction jobs, carrying water and  hauling lumber,” says Molasky. “I came here and bought a  piece of land in 1950 and started construction in 1951.”

Molasky built the 18-room Pyramids motel (pre-Luxor)  and speculative homes, including the Paradise Palms  subdivision, which became the premier address in Las  Vegas. Johnny Carson, Debbie Reynolds, Dean Martin,  LaToya Jackson and Dinah Shore all once owned homes in  Paradise Palms. Several homes line the Las Vegas National  Golf Club – another Molasky development – which was a  favorite “Rat Pack” hang-out. He later constructed the city’s  first private hospital – Sunrise Medical Center – in 1958 with  friend and partner Merv Adelson, who was twice married  to TV journalist Barbara Walters. The hospital eventually  established the region’s first neonatal intensive care unit,  and grew to become one of the nation’s top 100 facilities for  cardiovascular care.

“Irwin is a man of wonderful character. He is always  concerned about community in the broadest sense of the  word,” says longtime friend Elaine Wynn. “He has oldfashioned,  roll-up your sleeves values. He has worked hard  his entire life, and always applied himself.”

Yet, Sunrise was only one of many firsts for Molasky, who  co-built the valley’s first luxury high-rise condominiums –  Park Towers at Hughes Center – with Steve Wynn. The $125  million, 20-story twin-tower development, located on the  western edge of the 68-acre Hughes Center master-planned  business complex in the center of town, subsequently sparked  the valley’s decade-long vertical building boom.

Molasky is also responsible for The Boulevard, which  opened in 1967 as the state’s first and largest fully enclosed  mall. The 1.3 million square foot retail complex brought  Sears, JCPenney, and Dillard’s to the Las Vegas Valley.  Molasky additionally built the first Class-A office tower  in downtown Las Vegas, the Bank of America Plaza. The  gleaming 17-story steel-and-glass tower debuted at 300 South  Fourth Street in 1976. Molasky then built the eight-story  Bank of America West at 6900 Westcliff Drive.

“The thing I love about building is getting to interact with  bright young people all the time. I enjoy creating something,”  says Molasky. “I like being able to exchange ideas with  fabulous architects, engineers and finance guys from around  the country.”

That exchange of ideas has seemingly kept Molasky onestep  ahead of competitors. When the real estate market  imploded, for example, Molasky had already transitioned  into doing public-private partnerships. He built the fourstory,  93,846-square-foot Internal Revenue Service building  that opened in 2005 in downtown Las Vegas. The cityowned,  five-acre lot was valued at $2 million, but Molasky  spent about $15 million for the development, consequently  producing an improved property with a higher taxable value.

“Public-private partnerships are growing because of  severe financial constraints,” says Las Vegas-based economic  analyst John Restrepo. “It’s a very effective way to get  projects started. These are the wave of the future.”

Molasky, who turned 85 in February, still has a boyish  enthusiasm that he focuses on the future. His unfettered  optimism is contagious. He is passionately engaged in a  myriad of things from real estate development to racing horses,  including backing 2000 Breeder’s Cup winner Kona Gold.  (Molasky would like being a sports announcer in another career).

Philanthropy will likely be his greatest legacy. “Irwin  is looking to help everybody. He has huge, huge heart. He  doesn’t understand saying, ‘No,’” says longtime friend Sam  Lionel. “I haven’t known anyone that has dealt with him and  didn’t like him.”

Molasky donated 45 acres of raw land along Maryland  Parkway that eventually became the main campus of  the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV). The land  assemblage was a key component to establishing the  university, which until then had been a satellite extension for  the University of Nevada in Reno. Banker and longtime local  powerbroker E. Parry Thomas led the charge. “Parry Thomas  asked me to give my land to the university. I could never say  no to Parry,” says Molasky. “He said it will send a message. He  was absolutely right.”

That was the beginning of UNLV. In 1981, Molasky became  the inaugural chairman of the UNLV Foundation that has since  raised more than $800 million for student and faculty support.  (He holds an honorary doctorate from the school). However,  Molasky’s most personal passion lies with the founding Nathan  Adelson Hospice, named after his partner’s late father. It was  only the country’s third hospice when founded in 1978.

“Nathan Adelson was a very dignified man, but he died  an undignified death. Merv and I figured that there should  be a better way,” says Molasky. “We’re taught everything;  but we’re not taught about dying. And a lot people can’t  handle that.”

The hospice has since grown to encompass four facilities,  including one in Pahrump, with a $32 million annual budget  and 710 employees and volunteers. Nathan Adelson has  cared for over 50,000 patients who had less than six months  or less to live. It never turns anyone away. The hospice has  treated the homeless and prisoners. Last year, it provided  $1 million in uncompensated care, much of it raised by  Molasky’s wife Susan. Nathan Adelson Hospice has become  an industry leader, offering webinars and training to other  hospices nationwide.

“No one should end the journey of life, afraid, alone  or in pain. We just do the right thing for patients,” says  Hospice President and Chief Executive Carole Fisher.  “Irwin doesn’t tout his contribution very well, so others need  to do it for him. Nathan Adelson Hospice is one of the greatest  accomplishments in his life.”

Molasky demurs, reflecting on a life filled with monumental  achievements: “I had more guts than brains, I guess.”

Later on March 7, a crowd of more nearly two hundred  medical industry figures, Hospice board of trustee  members, publicists, media representatives and various  friends of Irwin Molasky gather at a six-story medical  office building on the MountainView Hospital campus for  the ribbon cutting of Nathan Adelson Hospice’s Tenaya  Inpatient Unit. Tours are offered of the 15,000 square foot  facility, which was designed to better serve patients in the  Northwest and Summerlin areas. The guests marvel at  the 18 state-of-the-art rooms, amenities that take visiting  family members into consideration, the views, the chapel  and meditation room. Halls are lined with dessert tables  and the delicious smells demand a search for the room  containing the catered food.

After Champagne is passed for a toast, Fisher takes  the podium to thank more than a dozen attending VIPs,  including Merv Adelson, before introducing Molasky. “It’s  a privilege for me to work with someone who is rich in  wisdom, compassion, generosity and wit,” says Fisher.

Molasky steps up to applause and cheers, joking that  Fisher already made half of his remarks for him. He  thanks Fisher, welcomes the staff and volunteers. “Each  individual not only provides medical care, but they open  up their hearts to all of these terminally ill people, and  they hold their hands and let them know there’s someone  there who cares,” says Molasky, his voice affected by  emotion for an instant before thanking MountainView  Hospital, architects KGA, the general contractor, his  board of trustees and his wife Susan Molasky, “the most  important person in my life.”

He briefly tells the story of Nathan Adelson. More  speeches are given, the ribbon is cut. Molasky radiates  relaxed energy, like this is still only the beginning. The  crowds converge and he navigates back to Mrs. Molasky  before summing up what the Hospice means to him in a  simple sentence. “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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