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Prospective owner wants Moulin Rouge revival in Las Vegas

Updated May 29, 2018 - 6:23 pm

The California-based group that’s under contract to buy the property that once housed Las Vegas’ first racially integrated casino wants to build a revived Moulin Rouge and a civil rights museum on the site.

Spec Builders USA Inc. is under contract to buy the 15-acre Bonanza Road property, and representatives for the company hope to close on the purchase in the next few weeks. If they do, the former Moulin Rouge site would be closer to having a well-defined future than it has been in years.

The potential owners envision a casino and attached hotel that’s both modern and modeled after the original Moulin Rouge, said Dennis Delahunt, a broker who’s helped market the property. The other priorities are “a small civil rights museum” and an educational and training facility, Delahunt said.

Upon closing on the property, the ownership group wants to involve Historic Westside residents, Las Vegas and Clark County officials in developing plans for the site.

“We’re encouraged by the progress,” Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce President Katherine Duncan said.

The Moulin Rouge had a short run in Las Vegas’ limelight in 1955, when other casinos remained segregated and black entertainers could perform at those resorts but had to find other lodging. The Moulin Rouge building hosted a meeting five years later that effectively ended segregation in Las Vegas casinos, earning the site a spot on the National Register of Historic Places.

A number of groups have tried unsuccessfully to redevelop the Moulin Rouge or put a new project on the site. The property has been under the guardianship of a court-appointed receiver for years while investors await their payouts from a sale.

“I think it’s time for someone to come in and see the value and do some cool things,” said Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear, who represents the Historic Westside. “Whatever happens there, we have to maintain the rich history and integrity of the Moulin Rouge.”

Potential new owner

District Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez last year chose Clark County’s $6.2 million bid to purchase the property, with plans to put a new government building there, but officials backed away from the plan in the face of backlash from residents in the surrounding Historic Westside. The judge chose the county over three other bids, including the Spec Builders USA Inc. pitch for $5 million plus demolition expenses for the remaining structures. After the county pulled its offer, Spec Builders agreed to match the county’s bid and entered a purchase agreement with the receiver.

The group put in an earnest money deposit but didn’t close and forfeited the money. It has since made another deposit — the third on the property made by a group that has included Spec Builders President Ashraf Rajpoot — and are advancing toward a late June closing date, receiver Kevin Hanchett said.

The property purchase price is $6.5 million, and the buyer is expected to pay the city about $2.5 million more in demolition costs.

“This is the third-time-is-the-charm approach,” Hanchett said.

Site in ruins

The Moulin Rouge’s remains on the site have fallen into disrepair, and the site has become a place where homeless people seek shelter. Multiple fires ravaged the remaining structures; Las Vegas officials declared them a hazard last year and ordered them razed.

Now the site is largely bare, save for the original crimson-tiled columns that lie in the dirt and a small homeless encampment that recently emerged along a wall at the western edge of the property. The original sign is on display at the Neon Museum’s Neon Boneyard.

Meanwhile, the gaming license for the property has been preserved. Century Gaming Technologies trucked a trailer to the site Tuesday filled with slot machines, and gambling was allowed from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. on a one-day slot machine-only license.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Follow @Journo_Jamie_ on Twitter.

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