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Local couple looks to bring new life to old Flamingo Inn Motel

When the City Council (meeting at that moment as the Redevelopment Commission) approved almost $100K in rebates for planned improvements at the abandoned Flamingo Inn Motel on Nevada Way, it was just the latest in a long history for the property. A history that city officials and the couple who bought the property say they hope will be substantially brighter than it has been in at least a dozen years.

It is not common for elected officials at these kinds of meetings to go out of their way to thank developers. But at the April 11 meeting, every single member of the council took time out to do just that. More than one council member referred to the property as an eyesore.

By the time Daren Saunders moved to Boulder City about seven years ago, the old motel had already been shuttered and looking increasingly dire for at least five years. But his wife, Donna, who has been a Boulder City resident for 30 years had seen a large part of its decline in real time.

Built in 1949 and opened in 1950 as Moore’s Motel, it was one of several formerly bustling motels along Nevada Way. But time has not been kind.

“I was driving past one day and saw a notice of a probate auction. Honestly, it was a bit of an impulse buy,” Daren Saunders said. “Another impulse buy,” his wife Donna clarified.

Donna Saunders explained that their information is that the original owner died and left the property to their son, who was not able to run it as a going concern. By the time the couple bought the property in 2021 it had a reputation as one of the worst eyesores in the city. The couple went in with their eyes fully open, knowing that there would be a lot of work involved.

“We have done other development in Boulder City,” she noted. “But those were new builds.” She gave two commercial properties near the corner of Nevada Way and Arizona Street as examples. “But Daren had done rehab work before.”

Daren does know a thing or two about historical buildings, having rehabilitated several of them in his native United Kingdom before moving to the U.S.

When the couple purchased the property, initial reports were that they planned an automobile-centric business centered on displays of vintage cars, but those plans morphed as they learned more about the property. Final drawings are expected in the coming weeks and the plan now is to convert each of the small motel rooms into mini boutiques aimed at artisans and small retailers.

“Sort of like Art in the Park, but year-round,” Donna Saunders said.

Lots of work has already been done — including fixing damage from a water leak and removing asbestos — but the road ahead is still long. The couple was leaving the day after the interview for this story to travel to the UK for several weeks to celebrate the birth of a grandchild. When they return, it will be time for new renderings and then filing for permits before any work can begin. The couple reported to the council that they hoped to finish work and be ready for business within a year of getting all of the needed permits. (The couple also owns the automotive-themed empty restaurant across the street and has plans for that property that are not yet ready to be announced but that will play up the historical use of that building.)

And that rebate? It is from the redevelopment fund which allows property owners in the general historic district to recoup up to 30% of costs for approved improvements with a cap of $100,000. The plans submitted show a total re-imagining of the building’s roof line in an Art Deco style.

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