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.”