Harlem Nights resort (courtesy)

‘Harlem Nights’ developer Shlomo Meiri touts Historic Westside hotel project

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The developer of the proposed “Harlem Nights” resort in the Historic Westside envisions it as the “anchor” that with spur growth and prosperity for the entire neighborhood.

“We’re not coming here to benefit any individual,” Shlomo Meiri said in an interview this week. “We come here to benefit the community.”

The project drew mixed reactions from neighbors, including churches, after its April announcement. Some pushed back with concerns about the tower’s height, while others argued the resort isn’t compatible with the storied neighborhood’s legacy.

The proposal also faces zoning obstacles from city of Las Vegas staff, who have initially recommended denial because of the building’s proposed height and parking.

Meiri acknowledged he needs community and city support to move forward, and said he’s willing to make some concessions as long as they’re debated in good faith and geared toward the good of the entire community.

In the meantime, Meiri’s team has met with residents and business owners to sell them his “if not now, when?” vision.

“Basically there is nothing there now,” he said about new development. The proposed site sits on about a block of land on the corner of Jackson Avenue and F Street, which most prominently features a dilapidated, boarded up casino. Houses and apartment buildings are scattered around the quiet neighborhood.

“We’re trying to reinvent the historical Westside,” he said.

The developer said he will hire contractors in the Black community, and participate in a workforce development program to help train his future employees. He’s in discussions with banks for financing.

“I’m proud of this project,” he said. “I’m planning to complete it. Otherwise, I wouldn’t spend my time, my money, my effort, my stress.”

Height reduction

Meiri was in town last week to meet with city officials, including Councilman Cedric Crear, who represents the ward.

A major compromise was reached.

Meiri agreed to reduce the height of the proposed 60-foot tower — a main point of contention with some community members who’ve spoken publicly — to around 40 floors, said Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, a project consultant.

Crear didn’t respond to a message seeking comment on the development.

Original plans called for 3,000 employees to staff 764 hotel rooms, 458 residential units, gambling and retail spaces, a night club, lounges, restaurants, and a 900-seat theater.

The resort will be themed after Harlem in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s, and also is inspired by the “Harlem Nights” film released in 1989, which starred Black Hollywood stars Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.

Meiri said he aims for the resort to honor the Black community, not only in the predominantly Black Historic Westside, but worldwide.

“We’re going to market to the world,” he said.

The height reduction will curtail the residential space by about 100 units, Mayo-DeRiso said. It wasn’t clear how the change would affect the initial estimated price tag of $700 million.

The California-based developer said he projects permitting will take about 18 months, and construction would be completed three or four years after that.

A public hearing before the planning commission originally scheduled for April was pushed to June 13.

In the meantime, Meiri’s team has hosted meetings with residents and business owners to sell them his vision of economic prosperity.

Meiri said he knows that at the end of the day, not everyone will be on board.

“Any reasonable mind will see what we’re trying to do for the community,” he said. “The name is for the community, the attraction is for the community.”

‘It’s absolutely too much’

But Gwen Walker, the operator of The Walker African-American Museum & Research Center on West Van Buren Avenue — close to the project site — described the proposed skyscraper as “monstrous.”

She said the project was “way out of line” and would “overpower” the neighborhood. The 66-year-old historian has amassed between 30,000 to 40,000 historical artifacts highlighting Black history, and has hosted collections at the small museum since the 1990s.

Walker said the project’s announcement caught the neighborhood by surprise. The developer should’ve consulted with the community “before you make this big splash of what you want to do.”

Although Walker doesn’t oppose redevelopment, she said that “all help is not good help.”

She said that the museum’s board would’ve liked to provide input on how the project will affect the day-to-day lives of neighborhood residents.

“Work with us to make things conducive and to preserve our history,” she said. “If you’re going to build a facility, then you have to make sure that everything around you is (at) a plus.”

Mayo-DeRiso said it’s nearly impossible to go public with a concept without having concrete plans in place.

Walker said the tower will be akin to “putting up a big wall” that will block the neighborhood’s view.

“We just want honesty,” she said. “We want sincere interest in helping us in developing our Historic Westside the way our residents want to see it.”

On midday Thursday, area residents Darnell and Amie Fisher said they welcome the resort.

“It’ll be good for the neighborhood,” Darnell Fisher said. “It helps the community.”

Darnell Fisher mentioned downtown Las Vegas when he said the neighborhood needs more buildings and a lively atmosphere residents can enjoy.

“Do what you gotta do,” Amie Fisher said. “It don’t bother me none.”

Contact Ricardo Torres-Cortez at rtorres@reviewjournal.com. Follow @rickytwrites on Twitter.

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