Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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Strip motels being demolished

Two 1960s-era landmarks on the Las Vegas Strip will soon face the wrecking ball to make way for a nongaming luxury hotel.

The La Concha Motel designed with a distinctive, shell-shaped sign by famed Los Angeles architect Paul Revere Williams, became an instant icon when it opened in 1961. The El Morocco, which opened in 1964 with a circular lobby, also symbolizes the stylized architecture in Las Vegas at the time. The La Concha is set for demolition Thursday, while the El Morocco will be torn down soon after.

"It's time has finally come," land owner and real estate developer Lorenzo Doumani said.

Doumani said he inherited the property from his father, former Tropicana landlord Ed Doumani, several years ago. Doumani has planned to redevelop the 5.4-acre site for about five years and expects to open a hotel with about 450 rooms that would be operated by a major five-star hotel chain.

Doumani declined to reveal the chain, which has not yet signed a contract, but said it would be new to Nevada. The hotel would open in about two years and would offer suites of 800 square feet or larger, he said.

Including the Four Seasons, a luxury hotel attached to the Mandalay Bay casino resort at the south end of the Strip, the hotel would be one of the few stand-alone non-casino properties on the Boulevard, he said.

"That's the whole appeal," said Doumani, who also has developed custom homes in Los Angeles. "Every place you go in Vegas now is thousands of slot machines and long lines. You can get gaming in any hotel and supermarket in Vegas. This is going to appeal to people who don't want slot machines" nearby, he said.

The site's proximity to the Las Vegas Convention Center will attract convention-goers, while the new property will appeal to people who want more personalized service without the expectation of gambling, he said.

The site isn't big enough to be able to develop a sizeable casino that would make sense in competition with neighboring megaresorts, he added.

"The Four Seasons is very successful" without gambling, he said.

The La Concha, 2955 Las Vegas Boulevard South, faces the Stardust across the Strip and is just south of the Riviera. The El Morocco, 2975 Las Vegas Boulevard South, is just south of La Concha and is north of the Peppermill restaurant. The 238-unit La Concha has an appraised value of about $8.6 million, while the 139-unit El Morocco has an appraised value of about $5 million, county records show.

A demolition permit was approved for the La Concha site Dec. 8 but a property inspection - required before it can be torn down - hadn't yet been scheduled as of this morning. A use permit to develop the project is scheduled for a vote before the county Planning Commission Jan. 8. The El Morocco site received county approval in 2001 for a 520-foot hotel tower and a 645-foot condo tower with a shopping mall. No permits have since been issued for that parcel.

Paul Revere Williams is known for designed a number of landmarks in Los Angeles including the Los Angeles International Airport, the Los Angeles County Courthouse and the famed Ambassador Hotel. The La Concha Motel has been featured in movies and hosted Muhammad Ali, Ronald Reagan and other celebrities over the years.

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