04-22-09 - There are three primary agenda items to report from today's city council meeting.
In March, three parking meter companies presented their vision for Reno's parking meter district of the future. The three companies had very different approaches taking our parking meters to the next level. You can find the original post regarding the parking meters by clicking here.
The City Council heard these proposals today, and were very excited about the prospect of updating parking meters downtown. There were a few changes from the original CAC presentation; Secure Storage Technologies has elected to try their pilot project on a block of Ryland Avenue, between Virginia and Center Streets, where the Washoe County LIbrary sits. Calle Systems out of Florida will put a pilot project in the west Wingfield park area, and McCane Meters will put in a system in the City Hall vicinity.
Then these 3 parking systems will run concurrently, and city officials will evaluate which has the best return and ease of maintenance. After that pilot period of 3 months, the city would choose 1 (or possibly more) of the systems to use throughout the parking meter district (mainly downtown).
How to Buy the RTC Citicenter Property
Anyone notice it was quite confusing following this issue over the past month or so? This issue involves a portion of the baseball deal between the City of Reno and the Baseball Folks. I say 'Baseball Folks' because there are actually 3 entities involved, Nevada Land I, Nevada Land II, and SK Baseball. As part of the original baseball deal the RTC Citicenter property, located between Plaza, 4th Street, and Center Street, is to be handed over to the developers to be developed as retail once the new 4th Street Transit Station is complete. This was a point of frustration for the city, who had to come up with the money from somewhere to purchase the property and fulfill their obligation. One idea was to loan money from RDA2 to RDA1, but this idea did not sit well with Jessica Sferazza and Sharon Zadra, who both have a significant portion of RDA2 in their districts. Then, the idea was tossed around to borrow money from the Sewer Fund. However soon after this, the developer agreed to reimburse the city for the purchase of the Citicenter property in exchange for an amendment to the baseball deal to allow the developers to move forward with a new retail phase breaking ground in August. This solved the problem of where to come up with the money in the long term sense, but not in the short term, as the deadline is fast approaching to buy the RTC property.
So I think I missed a meeting at some point, because today it was decided that it would be a better idea to borrow the money from RDA2 after all, because there could be public controversy borrowing from the sewer fund for a redevelopment project (Dave Aiazzi mentioned there are problems with this in Vegas right now), and the city would also be stuck with a large interest payment borrowing from the Sewer Fund. I think the fact that they were fiscally off the hook for buying the property helped change their mind to instead temporarily get the money from RDA2. So, the council did a reversal and is temporarily borrowing the money from RDA2, with Sharon Zadra voting no, because she is holding to her original commitment of not borrowing money from RDA2 for an RDA1 project. Jessica tried to explain to her that right now, there are no projects in RDA2 that would immediately require this money, and that if a project does come up in RDA2 before the money is paid back, the City Council would deal with it at that point in time, but Sharon was having none of it.
I think I tend to agree with the rest of the council, sorry Sharon! It's an issue of timing, the money is going to be reimbursed, just not fast enough to pay RTC for the property, and I would rather borrow money FROM a redevelopment source to PAY for a redevelopment issue, rather than borrow from a completely irrelevant fund, make it a big issue and have to pay huge interest.
Next up was Nick Pavich, to give an update/presentation on the Tessera project in northeast downtown.
He first congratulated SK Baseball and their successful opening night, recounting his experience of opening night and how much fun he had. Nick Pavich then outlined an ambitious
project that seeks to capitalize on Nevada's natural supply of
renewable energy including geothermal, wind and solar energies to draw
these types of companies, as well as medical science and other
technology companies to the City of Reno.
Most of you by now have heard of "Tessera", a mixed-use project in northeast downtown that would provide high end office, residential, retail as well as open space to a five block area located between the University of Nevada, Reno, North Virginia Street, Evans Avenue and the Reno Events Center/Ballroom. Long term readers of this site know I've been tracking their land acquisition for years now.
Nick presented some objectives of the project, one of which is to bring class "A" office space to downtown, and with higher paying technical/research jobs in addition to the jobs standard with retail and entertainment venues. The developer says the project will bring
high paying jobs to the area and position Reno to be on the frontier of
renewable energy technology.
Pavich says based on their economic studies the project may have regional economic impact of $1 billion dollars once the five year build out is complete. It may employ as many as 6,000 construction workers and potentially create as many as 3,000 permanent jobs. The estimated annual tax revenue generated could be as high as $154 million a year by the year 2028.
The next step for the project will be for the Redevelopment Agency to bring forward a Disposition and Development Agreement (DDA) which outlines the specifics of the project for Council approval which is expected to occur in six months.
Pavich anticipates a five year build-out with the first phase of the project starting on the Virginia Street blocks to include office, hospitality, retail and housing for University faculty or students. Pavich told the Council $27 million has already been spent on land acquisition, planning and feasibility studies.
Pavich notes the Tessera project would enhance an important gateway into Reno's urban core and due to its proximity to the University, would provide opportunities for the University. The developers are also working with the educational facilities located in the Redfield Regional Center and Desert Research Institute.
Dave Aiazzi mentioned he met with them earlier in the week, and felt if there was one aspect of the project "that we should jump on as community is being a geothermal energy capital." Aiazzi mentioned bringing in Edawn, and saying to them 'here's what we want you to look at. These are the kinds of jobs we want you to bring in." ' Aiazzi mentioned with the geothermal movement happening in Nevada, these energy companies will want headquarters in this state, and he'd "rather have them in Reno than Elko." He concluded his comments by saying "we should really move on this" and I tend to agree. There is a green momentum building in Reno, something to augment rapidly declining gaming, and this city SHOULD move on it. And a great first step is class "A" office space downtown.
And for those of us longing for a grocery store downtown, it was one of the first questions Jessica Sferazza asked. Nick Pavich told her that he had a recent meeting with his primary retail broker, who mentioned one grocer they are talking to continues to be interested in the project.