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Nevadan at Work: Tamares rep a driving force in revitalizing downtown

Jonathan Jossel in 2007 moved to Las Vegas to oversee Tamares Real Estate’s Las Vegas properties, which include the Plaza, the Las Vegas Club and the recently shuttered Western Hotel.

Shortly after his arrival, the city’s real estate market crashed, gaming revenues plunged and Jossel found himself in a new era for Las Vegas.

The 27-year-old said he never gave up on downtown. Neither did Tamares, a privately owned international investment company that acquired control of its Las Vegas casinos in 2005 from Barrick Gaming. PlayLV operates the properties.

Tamares last year poured $35 million into a renovation of the Plaza that should finish in about four months.

Jossel also left the company’s East Fremont parcels vacant, a strategy that has paid off now that the entertainment district is drawing more interest and investment.

"We turned away money from convenience stores and more traditional retail outlets that wanted those buildings on Fremont and Sixth Street. We let them sit empty, waiting for the right concepts, which turned out to be Don’t Tell Mama, Le Thai and this new bar, Commonwealth. I love that we created these individual outlets that are so unique. It’s the vision that (owner) Poju (Zabludowicz) had; it was the vision that I had," Jossel said.

Question: Why did Tamares move you to Las Vegas?

Answer: The owner, Poju Zabludowicz, had owned these properties since 2005 and he was looking for someone on the ground to be a full-time representative, someone who was young who could get into the culture of Las Vegas and understand the downtown environment.

Question: What was the transition like from real estate to the gaming industry?

Answer: It was something I embraced, just an amazing opportunity to come out here and get involved in a new industry. It wasn’t initially gaming, it was more about the downtown, the best uses for the land and what we should be doing. It was a transition, but in a positive way, actually. Las Vegas, and particularly downtown because there’s so much going on, embraces change. It encourages change. It encourages entrepreneurship. No ideas are too ridiculous. In London, people might bat an eyelid. Here, everything is welcomed and encouraged.

Question: What does your vision for downtown entail?

Answer: It’s been to create a destination downtown for community, for neighborhood, a core of Las Vegas. It’s to bring Las Vegas back to its roots, tourists and locals alike, and create a real hub of entertainment, energy and a place that’s exciting to be.

Question: Is boosting the Plaza’s profile Tamares’ top priority right now?

Answer: That’s a focus right now; we put all this money into it, we want to see it be successful. We still have a number of projects undergoing at the Plaza, from opening the final few food outlets — the Mexican restaurant, a new restaurant next to the sports book — renovating the sports book, to new shows. There’s still a couple of things to really finalize at the Plaza, and then the focus will turn to other things.

Personally, I have a soft spot for our Fremont East holdings. We had these little convenience stores and check-cashing places we got rid of and subsequently opened the Beauty Bar, the piano bar (Don’t Tell Mama) and the Thai restaurant (Le Thai), and recently signed a lease (with a bar) called Commonwealth. We did that simultaneously to the Plaza renovations. The Plaza is obviously the biggest and main focus, but the impact of those little properties down there shouldn’t be underestimated.

Question: What are you doing with the Western?

Answer: We have plans for it. We’re thinking them through and strategizing. The focus is on the Plaza, finishing up and making sure this is done correctly and looks great and is successful. Poju has lots of ideas and visions for it.

Question: What effect do you expect Zappos’ move downtown will have on your properties?

Answer: I think it’s great — 2,000 employees, a great, young spirit, people full of energy. We work with them on parties in the Plaza and different events. We’re working with them on properties in Fremont East.

We’re also working with a bunch of other people downtown, people who have been here since 2000 — Sam Cherry, Michael Cornthwaite. We’re working with everyone downtown.

Question: What would you personally like to see developed downtown?

Answer: From a business perspective, I think the key for downtown to keep growing and evolving is residential.

Question: Would Tamares be involved in developing those residential options?

Answer: I’d like to think so.

Question: Do you have any plans for the Las Vegas Club?

Answer: It’s kind of the same as the Western. We have ideas, we have concepts, we just finished the renovation on the Plaza — it’s still ongoing, we’re still putting money in it. As soon as this is done, steady and stable, we’ll turn our attention to Las Vegas Club and the Western.

Question: What is the Plaza’s role in downtown redevelopment?

Answer: I think we’re at the forefront. We are so strategically located in terms of being the linchpin. The renovation we just did is significant. It’s a new destination downtown.

We have new dining options that are really shaping downtown. When you look at the dining scene downtown, everyone talks about two new restaurants, Le Thai and Oscar’s. We own both buildings.

Contact reporter Caitlin McGarry at cmcgarry@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5273.

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