Q+A: DOUGLAS EISNER:

Las Vegas Valley housing honcho: Solutions start with community

Douglas Eisner, managing director and co-founder of The Calida Group, poses at Elysian at Flamingo Tuesday, March 19, 2019. Elysian is a brand of luxury apartments developed and owned by The Calida Group.

Douglas Eisner is co-founder and managing director of the Calida Group, which recently launched Ely by Elysian Living, its newest brand in the Elysian Living line of communities. “It really is more than a place to hang your coat at night; it’s an immersive living experience,” Eisner said. “We acknowledge that it can be a little bit expensive for certain residents, so Ely by Elysian Living is an extension of the Elysian family that offers an accessible entry point to elevated living.”

What is something that people might not know about you?

I started out in the industry as a union carpenter at 18 years old. I remember the Sunday before my first day at work, my dad, who was also in construction, took me to Bradlees department store, and made me buy jeans, work boots, my first tool belt, and a few tools. When we got back from the store, he asked me to hand him the bag of supplies and to follow him out to the backyard. He then proceeded to take my jeans, my tool belt, and my tools and beat the heck out of them against rocks and trees, stomping the jeans into the dirt, and just beating them to a pulp. I was speechless. When he was done, he just looked at me, patted me on the shoulder and said “trust me.”

The next day, I showed up in my stained jeans, with my scuffed-up tool belt holding my scratched up tools, and asked the first guy I came to where I could find the foreman. He looked me up and down and asked, “Who’s your dad?” In my best “Sopranos” voice, I replied, “What are you talking about?” The guy points down at my boots — “New boots. You forgot to scuff up your boots. So, who’s your dad?” I told my dad about that at dinner that night and he nearly fell out of his chair laughing, saying, “Sorry kiddo, I tried to help.” 

I still have that set of tools to this day.

How many local developments are you currently working on?

We have a bunch of projects in the pipeline. We are leasing up our newest community, Elysian at Flamingo, at nearly twice the speed we projected, so that has been an incredibly successful deal, and the initial feedback we’re receiving from residents is phenomenal. We also recently broke ground on three new communities — Elysian at the Palms, Elysian at the Hughes Center and Elysian at Tivoli — and acquired three properties under the Ely by Elysian Living umbrella: the Curve, Spring Valley and Centennial Hills. We have even more Elysian and Ely deals breaking ground later this year.

What is the best business advice you’ve received?

“You can do business with friends, enemies or strangers. I choose to do business with friends.”

What has been your largest and/or most complex project to date?

Every deal has its difficulties and in some respects, the smaller ones can prove to be more complex than the larger ones. But if I had to choose one, I’d have to say Elysian at the Hughes Center. These infill deals come with a set of challenges all their own. That location was originally conceived as an office site, so everything had to be changed to make it work for residential. The seller was a large publicly traded company, so there were definitely points in the process where they could have been tough on us, but I have some buddies over there going back 10 or 15 years. If it wasn’t for those relationships, we could have had a very different outcome. Remember what I said about doing business with friends? Those friendships came in handy when we needed their trust to solve the difficult issues and get the deal closed.

Describe your management style.

Our firm combines the hustle of an investment bank, the hunger of a startup and the sense of humor of a bunch of friends working on group projects. We don’t micromanage. Instead we set aggressive goals and objectives, and then hold our people responsible for the results. Some folks work from home. Some folks work odd hours. Some folks plop themselves down in front of a computer and crunch numbers till 2 a.m. But at the end of the day, everyone feels the need to perform at a very high level because of the culture of excellence we’ve developed. And we try to have a little fun along the way.

What’s the biggest issue facing Southern Nevada?

Southern Nevada is an amazing place where people can achieve their dreams. But it can also be a very isolating place to live. I once heard a statistic that the average employer in Las Vegas has 26 employees. You break that down, say 13 male and 13 female, and then by age and interests, and the average person only makes 2-3 friends while at the office. Then maybe that person stops by the grocery store as they leave work and then goes home. If you’re new in town — and most of us were new here at one time — you can struggle to feel connected to this community. I think that sense of isolation and disconnection amplifies all of the other issues Southern Nevada faces, whether it’s political action, philanthropy, volunteerism or ecological stewardship. That was the key driver for us to create the Elysian Living platform. If we can get our residents to feel more connected, they invest in the community and start to work to solve all the other issues. That was also why we started Elysian Living Foundation, the philanthropic platform for our residents to crowdfund for causes that are important to them. It gives them an easy but impactful way to make a difference.

How do you decompress after a long week?

I do sun salutations a couple times a week in my gym or my backyard, if the weather’s good. I also take an hour at the end of each day to unwind and recharge. I sleep better when I exercise in the morning and use my evenings to wind down, so I return to work more positive and productive. Exercising with my toddler also helps keep me sane.

What are you reading?

“Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari, The Wall Street Journal and a handful of other news sources. And a lot of picture books about construction sites. My 2-year old loves diggers, so right now we are reading “Goodnight, Goodnight, Construction Site.”

If you could live anywhere else in the world, where would it be?

One of my goals to live abroad with my family for a year. I want to do it after my kids are old enough to remember it, but not so old that it will interfere with their long-term schooling. But I don’t want to do it somewhere easy, like Canada. It has to be truly a cultural experience. I don’t know yet, but I plan to figure it out.

Anything else you want to tell us?

We’re hiring. We need more great people, both here and in other markets. We’re hiring for senior and entry-level roles in corporate, out in the construction field, and especially out at the properties. If you are willing to put in the hustle, and you think you can contribute to the culture of service and excellence, then we’d love to hear from you at [email protected]

Business

This story originally appeared in the Las Vegas Weekly.

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