Monday, May 27, 2024

Drama Swirls Around Moulin Rouge Property

November 5, 2017 by  
Filed under Highlights

Private developer Scott Johnson


If you’ve ever lived in Las Vegas, you’ve heard it before: “The Moulin Rouge is coming back.” The historic site on Bonanza — where America’s first integrated hotel and casino once stood — has been defined less by sensible land use and more by a rotating cast of owners, political intrigue, bankruptcies, legal drama, mysterious fires, and a general sense of disappointment.

Even though the property is prime real estate with deep history as a source of black community pride, the Moulin Rouge site has been so troubled that it was awarded to the court and a receiver — even though it has long been sought by private sector developers, investors, community organizations and governmental entities. Recently, the property receiver accepted a bid of $6.2 million from Clark County — derailing the efforts of local developer, Scott Johnson, and Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce’s Harrison House Community Development

Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce president
Katherine Duncan

Corporation (CDC) to buy the land and develop a Moulin Rouge project. We spoke to Johnson, and Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce President Katherine Duncan about aspirations to buy the property and bring the Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino back to life.

So, Clark County won the bid to buy the Moulin Rouge property site?

Duncan: The Moulin Rouge property has not been sold yet. It is still in the hands of the court. Clark County won the bid to buy the Moulin Rouge property, but their purchase has to be approved by the people.

How does the sale of the property get approved by the people?

Duncan: Clark County has to have a public comment period. I am not sure when that will take place. Clark County has to put this on their agenda so the public can comment on it.

So, who approves the sale of the property to Clark County?

Duncan: It has to be approved by the Clark County Commissioners.

Yeah, but isn’t it Clark County who is buying the property?

Duncan: Yes, Clark County is buying it. But, Clark County staff can’t buy property without the approval from the County Commissioners.

Where does the County Commissioners stand on the purchase of the Moulin Rouge property by Clark County?

Duncan: I don’t know. This is why I have been trying to get in touch with County Commissioners to find out why is the county buying the Moulin Rouge property in the first place. And what does Clark County plan on doing with it? Also, why didn’t Clark County come to Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce and ask if we would want them to buy it? And the bigger question is, “Why did they feel it necessary to outbid a private sector bidder?”

Who did Clark County outbid?

Duncan: Clark County outbid four private sector developers who are either  black owned or have black owned participation.

How long have you been working on the revitalization of the Historic Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino?

Duncan: Ward 5 Chamber of Commerce organization has been working on it since December 2015. I personally helped everybody else who tried to redevelop it before that. I never took on the project by myself. I was always there assisting the Moulin Rouge Preservation Association with Dr. Sarah Anne Knight Preddy and Alice Key. We were trying to redevelop the Historic Moulin Rouge as a non-profit and I assisted up until Ms. Knight Preddy died. The Moulin Rouge Preservation Association dissolved after she passed.

Where do your efforts go from here now that Clark County has won the bid to buy the Moulin Rouge property?

Duncan: I think we can push them back. I intend to stand up to the county along with: retired State Assemblyman Harvey Munford who will campaign to be our new Ward 5 City Councilman, the African American workers union, and the community to stop the county from taking over our last chance to develop an African American-themed resort in Las Vegas. We have to stop it. Dr. Sarah Ann Knight Preddy and Alice Key’s spirits will roll over if we allow this to happen.

It has been reported that the County has plans to build social service administrative offices on the historic Moulin Rouge land, along with a space dedicated to remembering the Moulin Rouge.

Duncan: Doesn’t that break your heart? And we don’t intend to let the county do that. As a matter of fact we don’t intend to let the county own the land. We intend to protest the county taking the land … from private developers. So we have assembled a group that has the financial means and know-how to develop properties. Why should the land be used for another welfare office? We have enough homeless people over here and we need to create some economic development opportunities so people can get to work.

What is your vision for the Moulin Rouge redevelopment?

Duncan: The County could acquire the Moulin Rouge land and give it to the Harrison House Community Development Corporation for $1. And if the Community Development Corporation owns the land, we can develop the property to benefit the community.

We want to bring back the Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino the way it was, and establish front house casino training opportunities. We would also like support to develop a Black Visitors and Tourism Bureau and market Las Vegas to black people from around the world.

We interviewed you back in May when you had a ground breaking at Moulin Rouge land site as the owner. What happened?

Johnson: Yes, well the deal to buy the Moulin Rouge property didn’t go through — because of outside interference from outside sources, our main investor pulled out. But we have regrouped with other investors and put our bid in and waiting to see what direction Clark County wants to go.

It is the understanding that Clark County won the bid at $6.2 million to buy the Moulin Rouge land?

Johnson: Yes, that is correct. Even though after the judge awarded the bid to Clark County they still have to go to the governor to ask for the funding.

The bid amount of $6.2 million is really not a lot of money for Clark County?

Johnson: No, it’s not a lot of money for them.

What is your vision for the Historic Moulin Rouge property site?

Johnson: I would like to join venture with Clark County and build the Moulin Rouge back up as a casino surrounded by a live, work, and play environment such as The District in Green Valley. I just want to build the project and have experts in the casino industry operate a revitalized establishment that will create employment opportunities.

What will you and your investors do if Clark County Commissioners vote yes for Clark County to buy the Moulin Rouge property site?

Johnson: I am not so sure about this.

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