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LAS VEGAS-The dividing line between the City of Las Vegas and the Las Vegas Strip will be marked by an 11,000-square-foot, video billboard by the end of next year. The billboard, approved by the City Council this week, will stand 100 feet above Las Vegas Boulevard at Sahara Avenue.

Below it, on the two-acre site of the defunct Holy Cow! Casino will be a 37,100-square-foot, two-story building holding a 9,000-square-foot casino, a 6,000-square-foot restaurant and 4,000 square feet of retail space that will include a Walgreens. The property is one of the smallest gaming-entitled sites on the Strip.

The developer is Steve Johnson, a low-key investor-developer from Scottsdale, AZ that has previously developed Walgreen’s anchored properties on the Las Vegas Strip. Mayor Oscar Goodman pulled no punches with regard to his expectations for the sign and the casino–and what would happen if it doesn’t live up to his expectations.

“It’s critical to me that that casino be first-class; this is not just a big sign. I want this to compete with any casino in town,” he told Johnson, reportedly adding that if it does not meet expectations “I will do whatever it takes to yank the liquor license … that was said with love and affection, by the way.”

The Holy Cow! casino, microbrewery and a cafe shut down in 2002, reportedly a victim of the economic slowdown at that time. In 2004, the City Council approved plans for a 73-story building with 960 condominiums on the site that never got off the ground. Johnson snapped up the site in 2007 for $47 million.

Initially, Johnson proposed a 500-foot-tall, 29,000-square-foot video billboard. It was winnowed to 98 feet and 11,210 square feet after the initial proposal received a chilly reception. Current plans call for razing the existing structure as soon as possible and having the new place up and running by late 2010, a Johnson spokesperson told GlobeSt.com in July.

Operating as Aspen Highlands LLC, Johnson has waited until now to redevelopment the Holy Cow! property because he has been busy redeveloping an 0.64-acre site fronting the Venetian and Palazzo casinos for which he paid $32.5 million in 2003. That site was in the process of becoming a 50-story luxury residential-over-retail tower when his partner Las Vegas Sands pulled the plug on its piece of the construction in late 2008. The site now holds only Johnson’s portion of the development, the first two stories, one of which now houses a Walgreens drug store. Above that, Johnson had leased six stories of air rights to Las Vegas Sands Corp. for office space and, above that, sold them the air rights for the condos.

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