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Irwin Molasky’s projects helped mold Las Vegas community

Hung with thumbtacks and forming a rough circle on a bulletin board in his office, renderings of Irwin Molasky's ongoing -- often high-profile -- development projects are kept within his view.

In the center of it all is a glossy head-shot photo of an athletic young woman with a bob haircut.

She is his granddaughter Sarah, a stunt woman and aerialist, and her photo among the chaos of his professional business is a symbol of what he holds most dear.

"My family is what I'm most proud of," he said.

The 84-year-old real estate developer's cup could overflow with projects of which he is proud. To look out from his downtown office onto Las Vegas, his home of 50 years, Molasky can point out high-rises he developed, one of which he now lives in with his wife, Susan. Under his feet is one such building and home to his umbrella company, the Molasky Group of Companies ; he is chairman.

A squint southeast of his office and one can almost see Maryland Parkway, the road that Molasky was most influential in transforming from dirt lot to an epicenter of city life. He developed Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, the city's first privately owned hospital. He developed The Boulevard mall, Southern Nevada's first indoor shopping center.

He saw to Paradise Palms, the first master-planned community in Clark County; Nathan Adelson Hospice, the state's first hospice; the 17-story Bank of America Plaza, the first high-rise office building in Las Vegas; Regency Towers, the first high-rise condominiums ; and Park Towers, the first luxury high-rise condominiums.

Molasky also donated 45 acres of land for the development of the UNLV.

The projects aren't even the tip of the iceberg of what Molasky has accomplished in five decades. He helped launch a production company, Lorimar, which created TV hits such as "The Waltons," "Dallas," "Eight is Enough," "Full House," "Perfect Strangers" and a slew of television movies.

Molasky Park, 1065 E. Twain Ave., and Irwin & Susan Molasky Junior High School, 7801 W. Gilmore Ave., are namesakes.

Molasky estimates that he has built billions of square feet in his career.

"I was ambitious," he said.

He got his start in construction as a boy learning alongside his dad, who was a developer, too.

Molasky attended Ohio State University for a year to study engineering. The only degree he holds is an honorary doctorate from UNLV, he said.

"I quit school like a dummy," he said.

After military service, he helped build G.I. housing in Florida. He still rattles off the sales pitches like a well-rehearsed salesman.

The cost was "$4,800 for the whole house, $7,500 for a big one, nothing down, only $54 a month," he said.

He moved his first wife and their young daughter to California, where he picked up speed with his development career. He was 18 and had to forge his father's signature to get a loan for a five-unit apartment project he was working on. Molasky did all the concrete work himself.

In 1951, the family moved to Las Vegas, "a tiny little town of 25,000 people," he said.

"I had a love affair with Las Vegas," he said. "I immediately fell in love with it."

He remembers the days of three-party phone lines and knowing all his neighbors around Sixth Street, where the family lived.

Before Molasky got to it, Maryland Parkway was a dirt lot past Sahara Avenue.

"I helped blade with a bulldozer to divide it to a two-lane road to Desert Inn Road," he said.

During the construction of Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center, workers could tell if someone was en route thanks to hefty plumes of dust that would flare up, Molasky said. Eventually, they oiled the dirt down to avoid disrupting the budding hospital.

Molasky still counts Sunrise Hospital & Medical Center and Nathan Adelson Hospice as his most proud productions.

Molasky said he still has a love for Las Vegas. He loves the nearby mountains and lake. He loves the heat, although he's given up on golfing in 110-degree swelter.

Several of his seven children and stepchildren, 13 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren live locally. Their pictures, notes and gifts eclipse in number the photographs of Molasky with celebrities and former presidents on shelves in his office.

Many of his children and grandchildren are in development either here or in other parts of the country.

"I let them make up their own minds, but because of who I was, I gave them job opportunities in construction. They learned from the ground up," he said. "They were always grateful to get back to school."

Molasky also was founding chairman of the UNLV Foundation, and a few of his family members attended the university.

Molasky said he and Susan keep up philanthropic efforts and visit their namesake school often. He said they were humbled by the offer to name the school for them.

Their park namesake isn't far from many of Molasky's most famous projects.

"I'm glad it's on that side of town . That part needs parks," he said.

Molasky is still active with his business, which mainly deals with government contracts outside his hometown, thanks to the economic downturn.

"I'm a big booster (of Las Vegas), but it's in tough shape," he said. "We don't just build buildings. We plan them so you can live and work and gather in a pleasing environment that fits your lifestyle."

Molasky is to the point about his take on retirement.

"I hate the word," he said.

His main hobby these days, he said, is his beloved racehorses.

Mark Hall-Patton, administrator for the Clark County Museum System, said Las Vegas owes a debt to Molasky's vision.

"He's definitely one that was absolutely central to the development of Las Vegas," he said. "He helped transform Las Vegas from a really small community to what it is today."

Contact Centennial and Paradise View reporter Maggie Lillis at mlillis@viewnews.com or 477-3839.

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