he 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, according to Las Vegas Review-Journal.
But the proposal could become a non-issue 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. The authority would bring on a partner with experience managing casinos. 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.
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.
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.
The Westside community has been protective of the Moulin Rouge site because of its historical significance and the role it played in Las Vegas’ developing black community. The hotel, which operated for six months in 1955, was the first racially integrated hotel, serving black patrons of the community when other Strip casinos denied them service.
After it closed, the Moulin Rouge served as the backdrop to citywide desegregation efforts in 1960 — after the community threatened to protest on the Strip, some hotel officials met with organizers to strike a deal to integrate Las Vegas hotels and casinos.
“This is not just any piece of dirt we are talking about here,” said board member and Clark County Commissioner Lawrence Weekly. “This is a very sensitive piece of property for the community. It’s historic.”
Though the site was placed on the National Register of Historic Places, the property was demolished in 2017 after several fires. In the past, prospective buyers have submitted bids on the property as well as proposal after proposal for a new vision for the site. None of those ideas have materialized.
The Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority is the most recent to consider acquiring the property to develop a casino and public housing that would create more affordable housing units and provide a revenue stream for the housing authority.
“The partnership income from using the gaming license would generate significant, unrestricted funds to be invested in modernizing our properties, producing and preserving affordable housing throughout Clark County, supporting our supportive service programs and increasing charitable activity to our community,” said Chad Williams, executive director of the housing authority. The move, he added, would be part of a long-term strategy to energize the Westside.
The property has received interest outside of the housing authority, including the company that operates Dotty’s Tavern, and there are three other serious groups still in play. Whoever acquires it, Weekly said it should all come back to what is actually best for the community.
“Is this the best site (for the authority)?” Weekly asked. “I don’t know. Have we taken the opportunity to ask the community if this is what they want?”