Historical building renovation has always captured my attention and if I were slightly wealthy, I would do it simply for the joy of it and as a true ‘hobby’. I’ve had opportunities come up to be involved in older buildings that could be suited for repurposing, but the expense sent It off into a category beyond the stratosphere. (And when I say beyond the stratosphere, I actually do mean the Stratosphere Hotel Casino in Las Vegas).
What is ‘Historical’ in Las Vegas?
Looking for historical structures is pretty funny. In Las Vegas, things that are known as ‘historical’ include the Las Vegas Welcome Sign, the Kiel Ranch Park, the Liberace Mansion, and the oldest structure that I find, the Old Las Vegas Mormon Fort.
History of Building Construction in Las Vegas tends to End in Demolition
Las Vegas has a massive history of complete building demolition rather than remodeling buildings. You see, location is everything and in Las Vegas, if a building has lost it’s usefulness or needs updating, the dirt under it one either the Strip, or downtown, is worth much more than the building itself because of location. I’m sure you understand that. Casino and entertainment venues are not as profitable if they’re not within these tourist zones. I know that some entertainment properties can be profitable ‘off strip’, but they’re still less profitable by magnitudes than their counterparts in the tourism zones.
So, going back to the seventies, you can find that Las Vegas sees much more building demolition than building remodel.
My Historical Building Renovation Goals for Las Vegas, Reno, and Rural Nevada
First, I want to admit that I’m not altruistic in my seeking of buildings to do renovation on. I am looking for structures that I would find fascinating to either locate a business into or even to live in. One example of this is the old Train Depot in Reno NV. Located off of 4th Street near Lake St, this building is a gem. In 2005, I saw that it was up for sale and the price tag was within my grasp. So, I went to walk the property and find out more about it.
Renovation of this classic building was an amazing concept. When I first started to do the numbers, I didn’t know that a friend was having the same idea and I would be bidding against him for the purchase of the classic building. This was a 3 story building with two massive walk-in safes and beautiful solid oak staircases going between each floor. The ceiling height on each floor (excluding the loft floor on top) exceeded 15 feet. The amazing oak floors were still original and in beautiful condition. The brick exterior had great arches and a very epic looking entryway.
My mind was reeling with the possibilities. I was looking at building it out as a co-work center and having a 3000 square foot penthouse apartment on the 3rd floor. I could truly see that the whole thing would come together in a matter of months. But then an ugly phrase was thrown into the mix. Ugly ugly word. The realtor, in the sake of full disclosure, told me that, all though I could buy the building, I could not ever use it for anything until asbestos removal was done.
The asbestos abatement on this building turned out to be a daunting task. Everything said and done, the asbestos removal would run twice to as much as three times the price they were asking for the building. I almost did the deal anyway, but I really wasn’t looking forward to paying that much out to an asbestos abatement company. The other downfall was that the building was not in Las Vegas and I really preferred a Las Vegas project over a Northern Nevada project at that time.
What I am looking for in Las Vegas for a Building Renovation Project
Okay, this might sound silly, but my first choice is an old fire station. Seriously. If I could find a fire station that was being retired, I’d be in heaven. Oh, speaking of heaven, my second choice would be the complete remodel of a church. But I’ll broach that idea at another time.
I like the concept of a fire station as a building remodel for a few reasons. One is the fire truck bays. I’d love to have an indoor bay with a height over 13’ and a length over 40’. Why do you ask? Well, simple: I have a large motor coach and I’d like to have room for it and several cars in the building. Can you imagine a classic fire station with a second floor, a fire pole, and steel-doored fire truck bays, all converted to a nice home? Sign me up! And with a project like that – asbestos abatement be damned! I’d be calling up asbestos removal firms in a minute to do the asbestos testing and I have no doubt that I’d find some way to fund the asbestos removal and complete update remodel for the building.
Asbestos Removal for Building Renovation in Las Vegas
Since Las Vegas is not all that old of a town, I truly think that asbestos abatement may not be as big of a deal as overall remodel costs would be. But, the train depot building remodels project proved 100% the opposite. And Reno is not that much older of. A town than Las Vegas. I know that even some casinos built in the sixties would have asbestos problems. An example to me would be the old Del Webb’s Sahara Casino in Las Vegas. My first-hand knowledge comes from their sister property in Lake Tahoe. Back then, it was called Del Webb’s Sahara Tahoe.
The construction of both buildings was handled by the same crews and in the late seventies and early eighties, I was subject to exposure to asbestos while I was working as a remodel carpenter at the Sahara Tahoe. While rehanging ceilings in the casino and in the basement areas, I was using air powered nail guns which would cause the asbestos-laden coating materials in the spaces between the building structural material and the drop ceiling to cloud the air with the dust from the coating material. It was 20+ years later that I find out that the material that was blown onto the beams was laden with asbestos. I can only pray that my exposures were low enough to keep me from getting mesothelioma as I grow older.
So, what this tells me is that it’s possible to run into asbestos removal issues in any building built in Las Vegas before 1990. So, if I go and find a fire station to purchase and remodel, one of the first calls that I’m going to make it to a solid asbestos removal company and find out the overall price to guaranteed asbestos abatement.
I’m keeping my eyes open for the right projects. I’m not in a super hurry but, as life is short, I’d like to find the right project in Las Vegas as soon as I can. I’m very off my idea of a fire station or a church – but it would have to be pretty intriguing like the train depot was. Although I’ve talked a lot about asbestos removal in this article, it’s a lesser concern because there are now more asbestos removal companies and with newer techniques for asbestos removal, I think the price for asbestos testing and abatement are down drastically. I think that in 2005, there was only one firm specializing in asbestos removal in Reno and maybe two in Las Vegas. So, you knew you were paying top dollar for asbestos removal.
By the way, many years later, someone bought the train depot and poured massive amounts of money into it. They opened a brew pub in it and the building looks amazing. It’s a little cumbersome because the dining had to be put on 2 floors. I ‘m not sure what they did with the penthouse loft. One thing I’m sure of, the asbestos removal cost them a small fortune.