Sunday, July 25, 1999 | 9:52 a.m.
"We're trying to do whatever we can to stop the wrecking ball for the Mapes," said Vincent Malfitano, who owns Skyline Crest Enterprises in Antioch, Calif.
"It would be an absolute tragedy if it was demolished. We'd love to restore it to its original splendor. There will only be one Mapes," he said.
Malfitano is a dentist as well as developer. He and other interested parties have until Aug. 13 to submit plans to refurbish or demolish the vacant 51-year-old downtown landmark. The City of Reno has advertised nationwide for bids for the riverside property.
Last summer, the National Trust for Historic Preservation named the Mapes one of the 11 most endangered historic places in America. The 12-story luxury hotel and casino has been sitting vacant on the banks of the Truckee River since 1982.
The Art Deco structure built in 1947 was the first hotel in the country to feature gambling, dining, entertainment and luxury accommodations under one roof.
The glorious mountain views from atop the window-walled "Sky Room" once attracted musicians, politicians, high rollers and Hollywood's elite: Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Tony Bennett and Clark Gable.
Malfitano's plans for both the Mapes and the Ormsby House are for a portion of the buildings to be renovated into senior apartments.
Areas designated as casino and hotel would continue in both hotels. Plans also would include refurbishing the Mapes' Skyroom and opening more convention and restaurants in the facilities, he said.
"I've been interested in housing for seniors for a good number of years," Malfitano said. "I think it is an untapped area and grossly under-served market. I've watched a lot of families struggle with placement of their elderly members of their family, and that is why senior housing in general needs to engage itself to be able to take care of the needs of its seniors."
Malfitano's limited liability company is one of four that by Friday had paid the $175 fee for the request-for-proposal packet. It is not a guarantee that anyone who picks up a packet will place a bid. More have toured the site and inquired than just the four, said Lois Butler, Reno redevelopment administrator.
Others who have paid for the packet include Washoe County; Higgins Development Partners of Chicago; and Nationwide Capital Funding, based in the Bay area. Once the bids are collected in August and background checks are completed, the proposals will go before a number of boards and ultimately Reno City Council on Sept. 13.
Washoe County's preliminary estimates to turn the property into office space have ranged between $25 million and $30 million.
Malfitano said his preliminary estimate to restore the Mapes is $18 million to $20 million.
Karl Diaz-Hoffman, president of Nationwide Capital Funding, which specializes in development management, said the company more than likely will make a bid on the Mapes. He was not specific about what the plans could include, only that it would not be a casino.
Malfitano, 42, said his interest in the Mapes was sparked long ago but was renewed with the city's plans to revive downtown Reno.
His Ormsby House bids, one for all cash and another including financing, were made soon after the failed May 26 auction. He would not disclose how much he is willing to pay for the financially troubled property built in 1972. The owners have asked $4 million to $5 million.
The auction's high bidder, Tom Day, a Riverside, Calif., developer, upped his original $2 million bid to $4.2 million, but last month negotiations failed with owners Cerberus Partners, a New-York based lending firm.