Investor plans to bring Moulin Rouge back to life

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LAS VEGAS -- The historic Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino, damaged last May by an arsonist's fire, may soon rise from the ashes, thanks to the Moulin Rouge Development Corp. (MRDC), which purchased the west Las Vegas property for $12.1 million.

"We'll be bringing the promise of the original Moulin Rouge Hotel & Casino to reality," said Dale Scott, MRDC president and CEO. "The new Moulin Rouge will commemorate history and celebrate the future."

The Moulin Rouge opened off the Strip in 1955 as the city's first racially integrated casino.

During the five months that the property was open, it became home to black entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. and Harry Belafonte, who, because of their color, were not allowed to stay at the very Strip properties where they were headliners.

In 1960, the property again played a role in the desegregation of Las Vegas when it became the site of the signing of a historic agreement to abolish segregation on the Strip.

Fast forward 40 years. Scott, newly arrived in Las Vegas, happened to catch a documentary that included the Moulin Rouge, which had fallen on hard times. Its history so piqued his interest that he visited the site and decided to "take on the project."

Thus was born the MRDC, a minority-owned company established for the sole purpose of revitalizing the Moulin Rouge.

"The historical significance of this property cannot be overstated," Scott said. "It has passed from one good-intentioned soul to the next over the years. For the first time the Moulin Rouge will be provided the kind of capital necessary to bring it back to life."

New construction, estimated at $200 million, is being financed through a consortium of private lenders and investors.

Pending the approval of gaming control regulators, the MRDC will break ground in six to eight months, according to Chauncey Moore, the MRDC's chief operating officer. The targeted opening date is November 2005, he added.

Plans call for construction of 500 rooms and suites; a 40,000-square-foot casino; 20,000 square feet of meetings space; a 19,200-square-foot replica of the original Tropican-can showroom; a 5,000-square-foot replica of the Club Rouge nightclub; an upscale lounge; and a Motown Cafe.

The property also will offer a 117,000-square-foot events center; a 9,000-square-foot cultural center; a nine-screen movie complex; a wedding chapel; a spa and fitness club; a buffet and food court; a sports bar and 13,500 square feet of retail space.

The property, which has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places for more than 10 years, also will feature the Moulin Rouge Museum & Cultural Center, which will celebrate the hotel-casino's history through art, artifacts and photos.

The construction will incorporate some of the property's original structures -- such as the front facade, neon sign, tile-covered columns and signature tower -- that survived the blaze.

Twenty corporate suites will be located in the building that served as the original hotel. In addition, Moore said, the Moulin Rouge will have a residential area with 300 condominiums, 200 of which will be listed as timeshare units.

"We want to create a work-play-stay environment," he said.

Because of the property's location -- on West Bonanza Road, at the center of interstates 15 and 95, a stone's throw from downtown, five minutes from the Strip and 10 minutes from McCarran Airport -- "we're looking at a split of 60% local and 40% tourist," he said. "But through marketing and advertising, we feel that within the first year that could go 50-50."

The city has earmarked this particular area for redevelopment, Scott said, and all of the new entities, such as the World Market Center and the Las Vegas Premium Outlets, either have opened or are being built not far from the Moulin Rouge.

"There's really nothing else [like the Moulin Rouge] in this area," he said.

And that's a good thing.

"Regardless of whether you stay here, we'll be a place you have to come see when you visit Las Vegas," Moore said.

To contact reporter Amy Baratta, send e-mail to [email protected] .

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