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Historic Westside may see Harlem-themed, 60-story resort

Updated April 6, 2023 - 7:08 pm

A 60-story resort called Harlem Nights is being proposed for the Historic Westside — a massive development that will be considered next week by the Las Vegas Planning Commission.

Shlomo Meiri, a self-described “crazy developer” based in Beverly Hills, California, owns the nearly 2-acre site and wants the project to act as a catalyst for other investment and development in the area, which he thinks has the potential to become another tourism area.

“This project will create a lot of work, and people in the community can live and walk in the same place,” Meiri said. “Las Vegas doesn’t have a place to grow as far as hotels and tourists, and I see that (Historic Westside) is the next area of growth.”

The project calls for a 687-foot-tall tower — taller than Hard Rock International’s planned 660-foot-tall guitar-shaped tower on the Strip — that will include 764 hotel rooms and 458 residential units. It will also feature casino space, a 900-seat theater, retail shops and a restaurant as well as a bar on the top floor of the building.

Located at the corner of Jackson Avenue and F Street, now home to the boarded-up Tokyo Casino, the development is projected to cost $700 million, according to Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, project consultant for Harlem Nights.

Meiri said the resort will be themed after Harlem in New York City during the 1920s and 1930s, and it will also take inspiration from the 1989 film “Harlem Nights,” starring Richard Pryor and Eddie Murphy.

Potential headwinds

It’s not the first time a major project was proposed at the site. In 2016, the Nevada Gaming Control Board put the brakes on plans for a $2 billion project that would have brought a 400-room hotel and a 2,000-seat performing arts center.

And now, Harlem Nights is facing concerns over its height. The project would require a zoning change to increase the maximum height from seven stories to 60 stories, a variance in parking rules for the area and a need to vacate a public alleyway running through the middle of the site, among other changes.

The Las Vegas Planning Commission will consider the requests at its meeting Tuesday. But commission staff have recommended that all the zoning changes, except for vacating the alleyway on the site, be denied.

“Deviating the height of the proposed development by 53 additional stories is out of character with the surrounding area,” according to the commission’s agenda.

Meiri’s response to the city’s concern was simple.

“If not now, when?” he said. “We get to live one lifetime.”

Meiri said Harlem Nights is the best bet for redeveloping the Historic Westside, and if approved, the project could take over six years to complete.

If the planning commission denies the zoning changes, Harlem Nights could still move forward.

The project will still be pursued no matter the outcome of the planning commission meeting, according Mayo-DeRiso.

“The final vote on the project is the job of the (Las Vegas) city council, and we are hopeful they will all see the value of this catalyst project for the Westside and what it means for jobs, the economy and housing,” Mayo-DeRiso said in an emailed statement.

‘Wouldn’t hurt’

Summerlin resident Ricky Towers, 67, grew up in the Historic Westside and has spent the past 45 years in the gaming and hospitality industry. He thinks Harlem Nights could be great for the area but it needs to be able to attract tourists from downtown Las Vegas to be successful.

“There are thousands of tourists over the weekend on Fremont Street,” he said. “And if (Harlem Nights) is marketed properly, then they will patronize Jackson; they will patronize Harlem Nights.”

Ennis Cooper, 74, and Curlene Cooper, 70, live a few blocks away from the proposed development. The couple have lived in the Historic Westside their entire lives and remembered Jackson Avenue as the center of the neighborhood when they were teenagers.

“(Jackson Avenue) used to be a booming place with clubs, bars and barbershops, but nobody kept it going,” Curlene Cooper said.

They say the Historic Westside has “gone down” since those businesses closed, with nothing replacing them. So the couple support the idea of placing a resort like Harlem Nights.

“It wouldn’t hurt since it could bring more money and jobs to this side of town,” Ennis Cooper said.

Contact Sean Hemmersmeier at shemmersmeier@reviewjournal.com. Follow @seanhemmers34 on Twitter.

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