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LAS VEGAS-Plans have been submitted to city officials here for a billion-dollar project that would remake the Moulin Rouge Hotel and Casino, an historic 17-acre property here that helped further the civil rights movement. One of the investor-developers directing the effort tell GlobeSt.com that upwards of $1 billion will be invested in a multi-phase project, the $300-million to $400-million first phase of which includes 700 new hotel rooms, four restaurants, convention and meeting rooms, as well as a pool-side night club, concert venue, jazz center, and 50,000 sf of retail and spa facilities.

Opened in May 1955 and marketed as “the nation’s first major interracial hotel,” it attracted the top entertainers of the day before shutting down six months later after running into financial trouble along with several other hotels that year, according to reports. Save for its use in 1960 to host a meeting that averted a civil rights protest in the city, the property remained shuttered until the early 1990s, when it was used as a setting for the filming of the 1995 movie “Casino.” In 2003, an unsolved fire gutted the complex, leaving only the facade and the neon sign that advertised the resort’s name in cursive. The following year, Moulin Rouge Development Corp. acquired the property for $12.1 million and announced plans for the $200-million renovation. Today’s announcement resurrects those plans.

The property is located west of the Downtown core at 900 W. Bonanza Ave., which would make it visible from both the 15 and 515 freeways. David Peter, a principal with Washington, DC-based Republic Urban Properties LLC, Moulin Rouge Development Corp.’s joint venture partner in the redevelopment effort, tells GlobeSt.com that the tentative plan is to break ground next year and complete the first phase redevelopment before the end of 2010. The necessary debt and equity financing for the project is about a year out, he says, but likely would include institutional money.

The MRDC-RUP team has submitted applications, supporting drawings and documentation to the city asking them to review the proposed Moulin Rouge site plan, which includes rezoning parcels for retail and restaurant uses. The application will be presented to the city’s planning commission where it will be heard as part of a public forum. When approved, the applications will be forwarded to the city council for final consideration.

Republic Urban Properties LLC represents a privately owned, fully integrated, full-service real estate investment, development and management organization. Moulin Rouge Development Corp. is a minority-owned and operated real estate development company primarily focused on the revitalization of the Moulin Rouge. Dale Scott, the company’s president and chief executive since its inception in 2002, is a retired Air Force master sergeant who reportedly decided to bring back the Moulin Rouge after seeing a documentary on its history. His partners are attorney Rod Bickerstaff and gambling-industry veteran Chauncey Moore.

Until the hotel’s opening on May 24, 1955, black tourism was non-existent and black entertainers performing in Las Vegas were only allowed in the hotels to perform; they were denied access to public areas beyond the stage and forced to seek overnight accommodations in black boarding houses, according to the National Parks Service, which maintains the National Register of Historic Places, including a website that details the history of places around the US integral to the civil rights movement.

Strategically located between the predominately white area of the Downtown casinos and the largely black west side, the Moulin Rouge Hotel was built at a cost of $3.5 million for the express purpose of being fully integrated, and was at all levels, from employees to patrons to entertainers, according to the website. Opening night was hosted by Joe Louis, one of the investors, and featured performances by the Platters and flashy chorus-line routines. Over the course of the first few months the hotel made the cover of Life magazine and attracted such performers as Louis Armstrong, George Burns, Nat King Cole, Jack Benny, Frank Sinatra, and Sammy Davis Jr.

But it wasn’t enough to sustain the property, which closed its doors in November 1955, just six months after opening. It was one of four hotels that ran into financial trouble that year, according to reports. One month later, the entity that owned it declared bankruptcy. Four-and-a-half years later, when civil rights activists scheduled a march on March 26, 1960, to protest racial discrimination in Las Vegas resorts, hotel owners, city and state officials, and Nevada Gov. Grant Sawyer set up a meeting with NAACP president, Dr. James McMillan and other black leaders at the shuttered Moulin Rouge. Most of the hotel owners agreed to integrate their establishments, and the planned march was canceled, according to the NPS website.

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