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Housing authority puts off decision on bid for Moulin Rouge site

The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority will wait at least until late August before deciding whether to place a bid on the old Moulin Rouge site in downtown Las Vegas.

The housing authority board held a special meeting Tuesday to discuss Executive Director Chad Williams’ proposal to bid $5.5 million on the 15-acre plot along Bonanza Road, once the site of Las Vegas’ first racially integrated casino. After some discussion, the board members tabled the matter until their retreat at the end of August.

But the proposal could become a nonissue if another company buys the site before then. Anderson Capital Fund, a California-based real estate investment company, submitted a $9.9 million offer to the property’s court-appointed receiver Monday. Any offer would need to be approved by a District Court judge.

Williams’ vision for the lot includes not only affordable housing, but creating a “Moulin Rouge Village” containing a tavern casino, commercial retail development and a satellite college campus. He told the board that the project could create “self-sustaining income” the housing authority could reinvest in its operations, including filling a $150 million maintenance deficit.

“Housing authorities across the nation can’t continue relying on federal dollars,” he said. “We have to look to the future to generate additional revenue, and this is one of those opportunities I believe is a winner for us.”

But despite interest from some board members in the proposal, the consensus Tuesday was that more information was needed before moving forward. The board’s concerns included whether to enter the gaming sector, the potential of paying millions more in liens on the property and creating a development desired by the surrounding Historic Westside community.

“We need to recognize what we’re good at and what we can do effectively,” said board member and Henderson City Councilman Dan Shaw. “I don’t think this board or this organization has done retail development or commercial development, and we need to take a very serious look at that. Even if we’re partnering with someone, that’s still outside the realm of our expertise.”

Board member Sanje Sedera said there already were government-owned properties the housing authority should consider building on before buying the Moulin Rouge site. Board member and Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear said that if the housing authority bought the property, it would need to pay the city $2.5 million in liens connected to demolition at the site.

“That is nonnegotiable,” Crear said. “That will not go away.”

The housing authority also will need to gather input from residents of the Historic Westside before moving forward, said board member and Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly.

He noted the fierce opposition community members mounted after the county placed a winning bid of $6.2 million on the site in October 2017, causing the government to abandon the deal and its plans to build a new Department of Family Services building there.

“I don’t know if this is the best site,” Weekly said. “Is this what the community has asked for? Have we even taken the opportunity to ask the community, ‘Is this what you want?’”

The housing authority’s proposal drew mixed reactions from those who attended the meeting.

Former Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford said he supported Anderson Capital Fund’s bid. Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce founder Katherine Duncan said the housing authority had a “great proposal” that needed more input from the community. Former housing authority board member William O. McCurdy said he supported Williams’ plan to make the housing authority more sustainable by purchasing and building on the Moulin Rouge site.

“I am really tired of seeing vacant land in Ward 5,” he said.

Contact Michael Scott Davidson at sdavidson@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861. Follow @davidsonlvrj on Twitter.

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