Las Vegas - Several years ago, the Rev. Sun-Myung Moon announced he wanted to turn the "City of Sin" into the "City of Sun and Enlightenment." He was never specific about what he planned to do, but 8 News NOW has learned the Moon's Unification Church has purchased a big chunk of a Las Vegas neighborhood.
Moon passed away this month. Before he died, his Unification Church went on a buying spree, purchasing enough property to establish a major foothold in Las Vegas.
In April 2011, Moon's church purchased a 135,000-square-foot warehouse near McCarran International Airport for $11 million. Amid some fanfare, the Rev. Moon announced the church would manufacture boats at the facility. Local dignitaries applauded the commitment to create jobs and stimulate the Las Vegas economy.
A year later and the warehouse sits idle. As it turns out, plans for the warehouse have changed. The church won't be making boats; instead, it plans to build a convention center and dormitory on the six-acre site.
Moon's death has undoubtedly shaken the church. Moon was a self-proclaimed messiah. Church followers called him "true father." He was famous for conducting mass weddings and leading a huge global empire.
He had big plans for Las Vegas. Property records show the Unification Church has purchased more than a dozen pieces of land covering 21 acres over the past two years. Almost $15 million has been spent to acquire the property in the same Las Vegas neighborhood, beginning with the purchase of a $2.3 million mansion southeast of the Premium Outlet Mall on Las Vegas Boulevard. This is where Moon and his wife lived while in the United States. The 5,800-square-foot home sits on 2.25 acres.
The church has been buying parcel after parcel near the mansion. Like so many puzzle pieces, the parcels come together to form a nearly complete land mass.
Dennis Flesher owns one of the few properties the church hasn't been able to buy. He said he wasn't aware of the land buys until 8 News NOW told him he's one of the only holdouts. He said he has been asked if he is interested in selling.
"I asked them to give me a price but no price has been mentioned, so I said I'm happy living here, I love it," Flesher said. "There's nobody around me. I have a real ranch-style type of property here with no neighbors and it's been this way for years."
He's lived in his home for 23 years and isn't sure what the Unification Church plans to do with their property. He said, so far, they've been good neighbors.
A church spokesperson told 8 News NOW there are no plans to buy more land to gain access to the Las Vegas Strip or use the property commercially. The spokesperson said the church is moving forward with Moon's vision for Las Vegas to build a convention center near the airport and rehab properties near the outlet mall that would be used to house missionaries and Unification Church visitors.