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Priority Project Update

8/23/09 - The mother of all priority project updates. If you are new to Reno or Reno government, priority projects are projects that each year the City Council evaluates on an exotic tropical retreat to Sky Tavern. These projects tend to get more staff time than others, because they are priorities. Recently, a list was developed for both RDA-2 as well, which made the South Virginia Streetscape, the East 4th Street Corridor, Tessera and the University Gateway all priority projects for Redevelopment Area 2. Below is a combined list, based on staff reports. It's not all bad news, folks!

AAA Baseball Stadium: This project is substantially complete but there is still follow up work to do, so the Redevelopment Agency will recommend to the council this stays a priority project until complete.
Freight House Entertainment District: This project includes the development that is planned for the properties around the new Aces Stadium, National Bowling Stadium, Events Center and Fourth Street Transit Center. The Redevelopment Agency is currently working on the creation of a sales tax increment (a.k.a., STAR bond) district for this area, so this will probably remain as a priority project.
Old Reno Sparks Gospel Mission Parking Lot: Redevelopment Agency is working in conjunction with adjacent landowners to complete the demolition of the old Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission (RSGM) building and create a parking lot. This project will be of limited duration and will result in the improvement of several highly visible properties. This will probably remain as priority project until complete.
South Virginia Pilot Façade Program: This project is currently unfunded. The Redevelopment Agency will recommend to the board this project be removed from the priority project list until a funding source is secured.
10 North Virginia Street: The proposed developer of the site remains interested in completing the project once the economy improves. At this time the project is on hold due to financing constraints in the current economy. Until he secures financing this will probably be removed from priority list.
Post Office: The purchase of the Post Office is on the RDA Board agenda September 9, 2009. In the interim the Redevelopment Agency is reviewing funding sources and constraints, reevaluating the projected renovation costs and revenues, determining the potential funding available from the historic resources community, and completing a level 2 environmental assessment of the site. If this project is determined to be financially and environmentally feasible and is approved by the Agency Board, the closing date is expected to occur by September 30, 2009. If it is not, the Redevelopment Staff will recommend pursuing the option of relocating parking to Mill Street and obtaining the plaza area next to the River. This would require the cooperation of the US Postal Service and an alternative funding source. Under either scenario RDA staff will recommend that the project remain on the priority project list.
ReTRAC Enhancements: The Request For Proposals for developers has been issued for the project. Responses are expected this fall/winter. The Redevelopment Agency will provide an update to the Agency Board after the first of the year. Over $500,000 in Federal funding has been secured. The agency will provide the Agency Board with recommended alternatives for use of these funds in September or October of this year. The RDA recommends this project remain on the priority project list.
West Street Market: This project is intended to support continued redevelopment, particularly residential projects, in the area of Downtown bounded by the Truckee River and ReTRAC trench, Arlington Avenue and Sierra Street. The market is substantially complete and is approaching full occupancy, with the exception of losing Brickhouse this Sunday. Operation of the market requires continued tenant recruitment, management of tenant issues and turnover, management of facilities and maintenance, and ongoing programming with the Farmers Market and other entertainment activities. The Redevelopment Agency will recommend this project remain on the priority projects list.
Whitewater Park Extension: This project is intended to extend the whitewater park further downstream by adding additional access points and other amenities. It is currently unfunded. The Redevelopment Agency will recommend this project not be included as a priority project until a funding source is identified. Should the Post Office Plaza scenario described above be pursued, this project could be merged with that one.
Guidici Land Exchange: Golden Eagle Industries has been amassing property in the area east of Center Street, west of Evans Avenue, south of Interstate 80, and north of Sixth Street. They now control two and one half blocks. This area has been identified as a key area for redevelopment in RDA 2 due to its location between Downtown and the University of Nevada. It has potential to link these two regional centers and should be acquired for redevelopment purposes. It is anticipated that it can be acquired through a land exchange for other City/Agency property. An analysis of the lease revenues that would result from the land exchange is being conducted by Nevada State Bank Public Finance. The lease revenues required for debt service, and the assumptions appropriate for the type of properties being leased, will be compared to the projected lease revenues with the exchanged properties. This project should be of short duration and the Redevelopment Agency recommends it be listed as a priority project.
  Tessera: The property owners have invested more than $26,000,000 in connection with land assemblage, development costs and feasibility studies to initiate a redevelopment project in the area generally located in the northeast portion of downtown Reno, between the Reno Events Center/Ballroom, the University of Nevada, North Virginia Street and Evans Avenue. At this point the property owners have acquired more than six acres. RDA is currently working on the creation of a sales tax increment (a.k.a., STAR bond) district for this area. This will most likely remain as a priority project.
University Gateway: This project covers the four block area bounded by Interstate 80, Ninth Street, Sierra Street and Evans Avenue. City and Agency staff has been working with the University and property owners. The City is processing a Master Plan amendment on behalf of the University and property owners. The Agency has a memorandum of understanding with the University. At this point all parties have indicated that the current level of activity is adequate and that until additional new development projects are proposed no additional effort is necessary. RDA will recommend that this project not be identified as a priority project with the understanding that the status could change if additional development is proposed and City/Agency incentives are desirable.
  East Fourth Street Corridor: Agency staff has held a meeting with interested citizens to identify problems and potential solutions. The Redevelopment Agency recommends two specific actions be considered as City initiatives. First, an amendment to the Reno Municipal Code should be initiated to relax the parking requirements to what they were prior to the adoption of the East Fourth Street TOD Corridor Plan. Second, a “main street” planning effort similar to that performed for Wells Avenue and California Avenue should be initiated. Both of these plans included a list of improvements and special assessment district costs for each property. On Wells Avenue the RTC had funding for rebuilding the street, Federal funds were obtained and a special assessment district was created. On California Avenue no RTC or Federal project funding was made available so the special assessment district costs for each property were much higher and the property owners were not interested in funding the entire costs of the planned improvements. At this point restriping consistent with the “main street” plan may be completed as part of the RTC slurry seal project. Both the Reno Municipal Code amendment and the “main street” plan project should be performed by City, not Agency, staff. Hence, staff recommends this not be listed as a priority project for the Agency and be considered by the City Council as a possible project for appropriate City staff. In addition to these efforts, the Nevada Chapter of the American Planning Association has indicated that they will hold their annual conference in Reno in October, conduct a workshop on East Fourth Street and provide the recommendations from that workshop to the City. The RAAB recommends this as a City priority for Community Development, Public Works and/or other appropriate departments.
  Linden Grove: This project has been reassigned to the City Managers Office. Staff from the Agency will participate only as requested by the City Managers Office. Staff recommends this project be removed from the priority project list.
  South Virginia Streetscape: This project extends along Virginia Street from California Avenue to Kietkze Lane. It will create design standards including improvements to streets and sidewalks and placement of street furniture, lights and trees. Agency staff issued an RFP, a firm was selected, and a scope of work negotiated. The proposed contract is for $100,000. Based on projections from the Finance Department approximately $55,000 is available in FY 2009/2010 for this project. At the same time City staff has been tasked with preparing plans for reconfiguring traffic lanes, moving parking off-street, and expanding sidewalks so that a bus rapid transit/streetcar/light rail transit line can be accommodated on Virginia Street between the University of Nevada and the Meadowood area. This project should be coordinated with the Agency streetscape project. Agency staff recommends this remain as a priority project for the Agency, the project be completed in conjunction with the transit line project, the City Council provide the same direction to City staff, and the consultant scope of work be renegotiated, if possible, in recognition of both projects and funding constraints. Even without a consultant, staff recommends the project move forward to take advantage of the synergy with the transit line project.
  South Virginia Street Commercial: This project extends south along Virginia Street and seeks to create a thriving business district south of downtown. This project will assist in the business development through the possible assistance of small business loans, grants, façade improvement assistance, or other necessary economic development mechanisms. The project is currently unfunded so Redevelopment Agency will recommend that it not be considered a priority project.
  Reno Opportunity Growth Fund: This is a continuation of an ongoing revolving loan project that is funded with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds. It provides funding to small businesses that employ low and moderate income persons. Both the RAAB and staff recommend that the program remain a priority and that the procedures, effectiveness and organizational location (i.e., which City or non-City unit should manage this program) of the Reno Opportunity Growth Fund be reviewed and changed if appropriate.
  Geothermal Firms Retention, Expansion and Attraction: The need to look into geothermal energy industry was triggered by the Tessera project and their interest in attracting geothermal companies to downtown offices. As part of the analysis completed by staff and EDAWN to validate the demand for downtown offices, a number of potential activities for retention, expansion and attraction of geothermal firms were identified. It became clear that Reno is at the center of an area with an abundance of renewable energy resources, particularly geothermal energy. The infrastructure to support this is beginning to develop with the University of Nevada (both at the main campus and the Redfield Campus) and the Desert Research Institute poised to play major roles. Companies are gaining interest in the region and opportunities for further growth of the geothermal industry exist. However, more needs to be done to create awareness outside of this market to let prospective geothermal energy companies know that the City is committed to the long-term growth of the industry. These activities include meeting with firms at the Geothermal Resources Council 2009 Annual Meeting in Reno. The Annual Meeting is held in tandem with the Geothermal Energy Expo which is the world’s largest gathering of vendors providing support for the geothermal industry. The event will include a field trip to the Ormat Plant Complex in Reno. As part of the University Gateway project, listed above, the potential for locating firms in a new office building adjacent to the campus is also being explored. RDA will recommend these efforts continue as a priority project. Given that this could benefit multiple areas in the City of Reno, the City Council should consider supporting this project with non-Agency resources as well.



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