Blending Culture and Community
Constellation @ Downtown, Summerlin
The Calida Group has made a major impact in Las Vegas by developing the Elysian Living brand of upscale apartment home properties. Located throughout the valley, the communities blend sophistication and style with a unique social atmosphere that’s changing how residents live and interact with each other. As the largest community development company in Las Vegas, the Calida Group is responsible for more than 11,000 units to date with at least 10 total properties expected by 2019.
The concept was formed by Doug Eisner and Eric Cohen, who first squared off as rivals before joining forces. “We were both apartment developers and we were both competitors,” says Eisner. The two met over a beer and discovered they had a lot in common. “We were in our late 20s. We were both Jewish and from the Northeast with similar family stories and a similar sense of humor. We became good friends very quickly.”
They remained competitors for a couple more years but helped each other out. “We were the top producers in each of our respective firms,” says Eisner “And we could see there were storm clouds on the horizon. This was 2006. We wanted to change course, but neither one of our firms would listen.”
Despite an imminent economic downturn, the two saw an opportunity to execute a new plan in owning and managing real estate. “We were both single and didn’t have kids. Those are the times in your life when you want to take risks,” says Eisner. “We left (our firms) in August 2007 and didn’t close our first deal for another year- until September 2008.”
The first Elysian property emerged in southwest Henderson after Eisner and Cohen took ownership of an unfinished condo development near St. Rose Parkway and Bermuda for pennies on the dollar. “In the middle of the recession, we were throwing pool parties and having catered events. We started reconfiguring the buildings so we could build a clubhouse. At the time, it was over-the-top.”
The Elysian brand would only expand and evolve with new communities throughout the valley. The amenities now include resort-style pools with cabanas, fire-pit lounges, lavish clubhouse lobbies, expansive fitness centers, and private rooms for spa treatments. Complimentary towel service, bottled water, coffee, and candy dishes would prove to be small touches that make a big difference with residents. Each property has two to four social events per week, from group dinners to poolside movies or even nightclub outings - with everyone invited. “By being a part of the Elysian community, you get to meet lots of people,” adds Eisner. “We create that social environment.”
Eisner says with the right approach, it was possible to grow rapidly - even during a recession. “We started with a 12 million dollar deal that we closed nine days after Lehman Brothers failed and two days after AIG failed,” he points out. “The world was coming to an end. Fast forward to today and we’ve put a billion dollars into Las Vegas since the recession.”
To mark 10 years in Las Vegas, the Calida Group has formed the Elysian Living Foundation with the goal of making philanthropy, volunteer service, and social involvement a fabric of everyday culture. “We don’t want to give money blindly or passively,” says Eisner. “There are so many great organizations who need our support. So how do you choose between cancer research, childhood education, funding for the arts or homelessness? It’s all important.”
The Elysian team decided to let its residents and contributors have an active say in that decision. Every dollar raised by the foundation will go to charity. Each year, 50 percent of the money will go to a designated partner, which, for 2017, is Habitat for Humanity. The remaining half will go to an organization chosen by the residents.
“With our platform, not only can you opt in and donate, but you can nominate organizations that you care about,” Eisner explains. “You can participate in discussions online or in person at the clubhouses. At the end of the year, whoever gets the most votes gets the money.”
Different causes might resonate differently in a given year. For example, an organization that helps the families of fallen police officers or victims of a hurricane might be especially in need - depending on the circumstances.
“What we’re doing is creating a platform, marketing vehicle, and distribution network where we’re offering people the opportunity to not only give, but to actually have a say in where the money goes.” Just like the Calida Group itself, the Elysian Foundation will grow and expand its reach with every new community in development. Upcoming plans include new apartment properties in the Howard Hughes Center and a high-rise adjacent to the Palms Casino Resort. The company is also branching out with assisted living concepts, including a new, special care facility in Summerlin. In addition, an apartment community brand called the Ely, is rolling out within a few years as a more cost-effective alternative to the Elysian.
As those projects continue to thrive, the Calida Group will make sure it’s nourishing a habit of philanthropy that can last a lifetime. “I think creating a culture of giving, in a city like Las Vegas, will have a huge ripple effect in terms of happiness and creating a sense of community,” says Eisen. “We’re creating a habit of philanthropy that can last a lifetime.”
Eric Cohen and Doug Eisner
Construction at a Habitat for Humanity site, Las Vegas