Guy Farmer: What will happen to the Ormsby House?
I have fond memories of the historic Laxalt family-owned Ormsby House because we stayed there a couple of times on “home leave” when I was in the Foreign Service. Thanks to Clark Russell, who managed the popular hotel-casino in those days, we enjoyed nice rooms at reasonable prices.
That was a long time ago, however, and this Carson City landmark has fallen on hard times since we stayed there in the 1970s and ’80s. After the Ormsby House closed in 2000, I used to have coffee with tennis friends at the City Cafe across the street. We joked about which local project would be finished first, the Ormsby House or the Freeway. We now know the sad answer to that question as we’ve had to live with a big, empty building on our main street for nearly 20 years.
It’s with some degree of trepidation that I write about an offer by Joe D’Angelo, a shadowy Las Vegas real estate developer, to buy the Ormsby House from current owners Al Fiegehen and Don Lehr for $15 million while investing an additional $75 million from unnamed “benefactors” to turn it into a luxury senior residence called “Joshua’s House” featuring pricey suites that will rent for a minimum of $10,000 per month. Or you can reportedly rent a two-bedroom suite for “only” $22,000 per month, including “concierge” medical services.
Fiegehen’s daughter Kimberly is handling the negotiations with D’Angelo, and escrow is supposed to close on Oct. 17. D’Angelo told the Appeal’s Geoff Dornan last week that “the key to the deal” is a Tuesday Major Plan Review by Mayor Bob Crowell and the Board of Supervisors. “The city is trying to force me into a special use permit,” D’Angelo told Dornan. “They want their nose inside my business,” which might be a good idea.
D’Angelo said he’ll avoid room, sales and property taxes because Joshua’s Community, which he runs, is a 501-c charitable organization that promotes housing for the homeless. But that’s not what this local project is about — far from it. He added that the bottom floors with five restaurants and a few hotel rooms will open next spring if the deal goes through. Just what we need, five more restaurants in downtown Carson City.
“Wealthy people will pay,” because of the elegant amenities, D’Angelo told KRNV-TV in Reno.
Well maybe, but I don’t know anyone in Carson City who can afford his prices. I’ve been pricing senior residences in Seattle, and they look dirt cheap by comparison.
The Joshua’s Community website claims it’s doing “God’s work, inspired by love,” but maybe not here unless some of those homeless folks have a lot of money hiding under their mattresses, or whatever they sleep on. I urge the city, Mayor Bob and the Supes to take a very close look at this dubious venture when they review the project on Tuesday.
Personally, color me skeptical. D’Angelo’s proposal reminds me of that old Big New Library Project, which justifiably fell flat on its face a few years ago. As you’ll recall, that was a project we didn’t need and couldn’t afford. Think about it.
The Appeal’s Anne Knowles recently reported that the ambitious Lompa Ranch housing development is off to a slow start. At present, she wrote, it consists of “a mound of dirt… dotted with brush and weeds” alongside the LDS Church in east Carson City. Eventually, the developer, Ryder Homes, hopes to build 430 houses and at least as many apartments. Let’s keep an eye on these developers and watch out for California-style condo jungles.
Guy W. Farmer, a retired diplomat, has been a Carson City resident since 1962.