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Moulin Rouge casino revival is centerpiece of $1.6B project

Updated August 9, 2019 - 3:58 pm

When Clark County planned to buy the historic Moulin Rouge site in late 2017 to build a family services office, community members urged officials to backtrack, roiled by the prospect of a government building on the property that was once home to Las Vegas’ first desegregated casino and hotel.

Clark County listened, ending its pursuit of a $6.2 million purchase despite presenting a winning bid, conceding to the will of those who only see one possibility for the land: A Moulin Rouge revival.

Now there is an agreement in place for a development group to buy the property on Bonanza Road near Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard for $9.5 million, with plans to resurrect the Moulin Rouge Hotel &Casino as the centerpiece to an ambitious $1.6 billion mixed-use, master-planned development.

Las Vegas Moulin Rouge LLC, a group that unsuccessfully bid for the property two years ago, made the formal offer last week and will have until just Tuesday to deposit the full purchase price into an escrow account as proof of funds, according to Kevin Hanchett, the court-appointed receiver for the foreclosed casino site.

Offers have come and gone in recent years, typically derailed by financing struggles, so Hanchett is proceeding cautiously: “There’s been promises made in the past that have not been fulfilled. That’s also why it’s a relatively short time,” he said.

But company executives are optimistic. Scott Johnson, a principal for the company, said a lender has already approved financing and he expects to close a deal by Aug. 2.

Hanchett noted, however, any purchase timeline would be tied to court approval.

‘Uptown’ Las Vegas

If the sale moves forward, the mega-project is envisioned to transform the city’s Historic Westside into “Uptown” Las Vegas in three separate phases, according to a project executive summary.

“The rest of Las Vegas has passed on from that side of town,” Johnson said, speaking of the predominantly African-American community.

To draw visitors back and pay homage to the location that hosted the 1960 meeting desegregating the Strip and downtown, an estimated $400 million Phase I calls for the new 400-room Moulin Rouge Hotel &Casino.

It will feature more than 25,000 square feet of gaming and a list of amenities: Venetian-style suites in a high-rise tower that developers describe as a visible landmark; two restaurants (including a buffet); 40,000 square feet of convention and meeting rooms; and a poolside nightclub and poolside sportsbook.

Plans also include a 1,200-seat showroom; 200-seat jazz center; more than 25,000 square feet of retail and spa facilities; and a 5,000-square-foot museum, the executive summary shows.

Developers say they will incorporate the Moulin Rouge neon sign and parts of the original casino facade into the project.

They estimate Phase I will create thousands of direct and indirect local jobs.

“When people see the Moulin Rouge is being developed, all around the world, people want to come to Las Vegas,” said Gene Collins, a principal for the company and a former president for the local NAACP. “It’s not a Westside thing, it’s an international thing.”

Plans for Phases II and III, projected to cost $1.2 billion in total and require buying more property nearby, include an additional gaming floor, retail areas and entertainment venues as well as a 12,000-seat arena and 15-story office tower, according to the executive summary.

“I can get it done if I’m given the opportunity,” Johnson said. “I’m not necessarily looking for a legacy project, but this would be it.”

Competition

Las Vegas Moulin Rouge LLC isn’t alone in its pursuit to re-establish the historic hotel and casino, however. Anderson Capital Fund said earlier this month it submitted a $9.9 million offer.

Its project to create the Moulin Rouge Hotel &Casino would spur roughly 15,000 jobs and include housing and retail components, according to plans.

“The biggest thing about the project is that my client’s vision includes resurrecting the icon but, more importantly, infusing development into an area that has long since been forgotten,” said attorney John Hunt, who represents the investors.

Former Nevada Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who supports the Anderson Capital project, recalled that his last vow in the Legislature was to continue to work in his district, which encompasses the property.

“I think the one project that will help elevate and help our district economically is the Moulin Rouge,” he said. “There’s some pioneers who still live in the community, and they were part of the original Moulin Rouge, and they want to see it brought back.”

Hanchett said Friday that there has been no momentum on the Anderson Capital offer. Others have also expressed recent interest in the site for different uses, including the parent company of Dotty’s taverns and the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority.

Fires in recent years have gutted the neglected property. More than 300 investors are waiting to recoup at least some of the $19 million they collectively sank into the site when a different hotel and casino project collapsed amid the sharp economic downturn in 2008.

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

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