News Redevelopment Agency Meeting 10/24/07
Item B1) 10 North Plaza.
The board opinion was essentially unanimous. They did not like the proposal. The proposal essentially traded the city 1500sf of space in the building (lease of 40K per year) for free land acquisition for the developer (land lease of 40K per year - if the Developer did not choose to execute an option to buy the ground - appraised at $1.2 million - for $500K).
Jessica opined that the city should no longer give away valuable ground. Sharon opined (and was echoed by the rest of the board) that this proposal may be ECONOMIC for the developer but it would not give the city the ICONIC plaza that she felt was needed. This turned out to be the theme of the discussion. ECONOMIC vs ICONIC.
The council was ready to vote to dump the whole process for at least another year until the developer finally addressed them and indicated that he would like to have another chance - in light of their comments - to attempt a more ICONIC proposal. The board then reconsidered and gave him - and staff - another 90 days to try to come up with something more appealing.
These types of comments caught my attention.
One member (perhaps Aiazzi or Gustin) made this comment. "Why are we trying to produce commercial and restaurant space here that will just compete with existing space in the Palladio that is still unleased? Maybe we should focus our efforts on trying to help them get their already built out space occupied by a nice restaurant rather than getting a nice restaurant into a new space at 10 North" My reaction - maybe a restaurant that is interested in 10 North could be convinced to go into the Palladio if 10 North is tabled.
Another line of conversation delved into the Baseball and Post Office projects and seemed to me to suggest that both might be into the leasing phase quite soon (late 2008 or 2009). Though not clearly stated, their comments seemed to suggest that the board wanted to go full steam ahead on the those projects - which would require city funding - AHEAD of 10 North. They know what to do with the Post Office and the Baseball deals and they still have not seen the combination of ECONOMIC AND ICONIC at 10 North that rings their chimes.
Perhaps the "time was just not right for 10 North" - ie. wrong part of real estate cycle.
Until the new bridge design issue was resolved, they wanted nothing to do with retail on the west end because of possible complications.
Even without the bridge issues they didn't much like retail on the west end.
Perhaps "other developers" will be interested in the 10 North project once the Baseball, Post Office (and accompanying Riverfront Plaza), Eco-Channel and 2nd Whitewater park projects all get going.
My opinion of what I heard.... The City's plate is full and the current project - as drafted - has now dropped down their priority list and they apparently want to focus on a lot of other critical issues that are cropping up. They (somewhat reluctantly) gave the developer authorization to work with staff and come back again in 90 days, but if the result is not ICONIC and CHEAP, they probably will not give it much current consideration.
ITEMS B2 - B4 were ALL approved with ZERO discussion in about 60 seconds.
Post your comments
Posted by: BUGSY - 10/25/2007 6:44:01 PM
And just think, the city tore down the historical Mapes Hotel Casino for this.
Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/25/2007 8:19:25 PM
Hey Bugsy how's it going? Well to be honest I think the city is doing the right thing for not settling for less. Don't forget, the council did everything the ycould to try to save the Mapes. They had multiple engineers say it would be impossible to restore, I heard there were columns that weren't even attached to the floor anymore, and the building was completely and unstructurally sound. So perhaps we could say if the Mapes had hung in there a bit longer, someone would have done something with it....but I have a feeling even if it were around today, all the developers that came in (Belvedere, Montage, Riverwalk Towers) still would have chosen those buildings overthe Mapes to restore, simply because they were structurally sound. I loved the Mapes too, but I have a feelign it would still be where it was before it was demolished; sitting empty. Even without the ice rink cover and retail building, I still feel 10 North Virginia is a better space as an open space, instead of a building no one wanted to touch with a 10 foot pole. Yes, the Mapes was beautiful, there's no doubt about it...
Posted by: Steve Watts - 10/26/2007 10:30:26 AM
Mike, as a longtime local I respectfully and fervvently disagree. Every time the Mapes argument comes up, new horrific descriptions suddenly appear about its conditon, which are pretty irrelevant, considering the amazing restorations that other cities have done. I still don't buy it "couldn't be saved." Look at the amazing restorations in places like Seattle. The other argument, that nobody wanted it, sounds hollow ever since the city was whining about not having enough building space soon after the demolition, and ended up paying $$$ for the First Interstate Building across the street!
Posted by: Mike Oh - 10/26/2007 11:20:12 AM
Awesome. I like that way of thinking much better - help fill existing retail lots before building new ones. This will help prevent a retail craze that would result in a mediocre response kinda like what happened with the condo boom. I mean, I would LOVE to see more restaurants and retail down town but let's fill up the existing vacant spaces (which are fairly prominent) first and not get too much ahead of ourselves.
Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/26/2007 11:20:42 AM
Hi Steve! The argument the building was unsound could probably be debated, I never saw it for myself so I don't want to say flat out is was structurally unsound. I am simply repeating what Dave Aizzi told me. He is the one who personally took the tour and saw support columns separated from floors etc. Did you know he was even willing to give up part of his net worth to save the building? However, the fact no one wanted it is VERY verifiable. All you have to do is go back in City Records and look. NO INVESTORS stepped up to the plate to save it. That's a simple fact. As sad of a fact it is, because don't get me wrong, I loved the Mapes. There wasn't a better example of Art Deco in town. However, we can't go back into the past. It's gone, and the city probably has gotten enough heat for that decision. I think we should focus on getting something iconic in that space.
Posted by: Brian - 10/26/2007 2:55:22 PM
Mike- Great response, and I just have to throw in my own agreement with your thoughts and observations. Let's keep things moving forward in the right direction and quit complaining about the past and things that can't be undone. There's no progress in that. As always, great work on this blog. Keep it up!
Posted by: dave aiazzi - 10/27/2007 8:56:52 AM
I would also like to note that (then) Mayor Griffin and I went to Washington DC to meet with the National Trust for Historic Preservation. We sat in President Richard Moe's office and he told us to our face there was nothing he or the trust could do. We asked for help in fundraising, grants etc (since that, supposedly, is their business) and we were flatly denied. I would like to see how much they made in donation after the Mapes came down. They used this in a national advertising campaign to raise funds. Has ANY of that money made its way to Nevada?
Posted by: Rick - 10/27/2007 9:06:03 AM
I can't believe we are dredging up the tired old Mapes debate again. Please move on.
Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/27/2007 10:07:22 AM
Hi Rick! I don't think anybody is 'dredging' it up, we're just have a civilized discussion about it. All of this leads back to Bugsy's comment, and he has a valid point, and I think the City feels the same way, or else they would've settled for John Pappas slightly-less-than-iconic design. Better to wait for something COOL and iconic to go there than to just build anything. I would still like to see the cover built, whether retail goes in or not.
Posted by: RenoSteve - 10/28/2007 7:09:51 AM
I completely agree with the “lets move on” comments. We are where we are and I think the future of the Downtown Riverfront District - and all of downtown - is VERY BRIGHT. Following is the summary of what the author – an architect and urban designer - of this link http://www.archnewsnow.com/features/Feature1.htm refers to as - The 6 “Critical Ingredients in Urban Placemaking.” (1) CHARACTER —compelling physical characteristics establish a sense of place. (2) OWNERSHIP—an identifiable group has a sense of pride and responsibility for a definable space. (3) AUTHENTICITY—a place exhibits genuine ethos of historic or contemporary meaning or context for its users. (4) ACCOMODATIONS—amenities are present that provide for basic human needs and desires. (5) NATURE—water, trees and plants, and sky and sun are present, attended to, and respected. (6) SOCIAL AND PRIVATE SPACE—talk, play, and special events as well as retreat and solitude are accommodated and encouraged. (see link for added details) <<< If we consider 10 North to be an INTEGRAL PART of a larger URBAN PLACE (Reno’s Downtown Riverfront District) - which will eventually extend along the River from west of the Lear Theater to east of the Ballpark - how should 10 North HELP COMPLETE the assembly of that district’s “Six Critical Ingredients”? As I read the article, it seemed to me that 10 North is the district’s logical CENTRAL PLAZA – its social heart. Using the author’s words… “[A Public Plaza is] the theater of everyday life. There is joy and comfort in watching and socially interacting with neighbors and strangers. Having places to sit and talk, run and play, listen to music, watch jugglers, buy vegetables — and teach children to do the same — is both a right and a responsibility…. [It should host] special and regular events and performances - markets and gatherings of all kinds, from celebrations to political rallies, help define community [and] should always be equipped to handle large groups of people.” In the winter, 10 North hosts ice skaters. In warmer seasons, it should become a constant beehive of outdoor activity hosting a FULL SCHEDULE of local events – various functions including farmers markets, art shows, small scale outdoor musical and other performances (with larger scale performances at Wingfield Park or the Ballpark), jugglers or clowns for the kids - whatever! In moderate weather, there should be plenty of shaded seating with convenient access to beverages, snacks and restrooms. At night, there should be awesome architectural lighting accentuating an iconic shade structure as the square continues to host evening activities. 10 North should become THE PLACE - where something is ALWAYS happening – THE MAGNET that draws everyone to downtown. There are plenty of places downtown for expansion of commercial office space and fine dining, but why bring THAT to 10 North? 10 North should be a PUBLIC PLACE for social interaction, street vendors, and to perhaps just sit idly – watching the kids splashing and having fun across the river at the soon-to-be-designed Post Office Plaza - see $600K engineering contract in this week’s RDA meeting agenda. The city should use the east end of 10 North to build a “support facility” for its town square. I feel the plaza shade structure should be DRAMATIC. The support building should blend in architecturally but NOT COMPETE for visual attention. It should support the plaza – not overwhelm it. Besides rink support, restrooms and perhaps beverage/snack facilities, 10 North would be greatly enhanced by the addition of flexible public space that can be opened in good weather and closed when desired – designed to support WHATEVER is happening on the plaza. In winter this space could become a protected place to sit indoors, sip coffee and watch the ice skaters. In summer it could host portions of art shows or farmers market activities or whatever. If the entire east end is not needed for the building, then add seating, art, landscaping and perhaps a water feature to further enhance the square. I think mixing public and private interests on this pivotal centrally located real estate amounts to being penny-wise and pound-foolish. Instead, the city should focus entirely on transforming it into a PUBLIC JEWEL that is designed specifically to become the VIBRANT SOCIAL HEART of the Downtown Riverfront District. If that heart beats properly, offices, restaurants and other retail will soon assemble around it – in the Palladio, in the Penny Building, in the Woolworth Building, in the Post Office Building and in many other locations. Downtown needs a VIBRANT HEART. The city needs to properly complete its PUBLIC SQUARE and start it really beating with a full calendar of social activity.
Posted by: dave aiazzi - 10/29/2007 7:37:05 AM
What may have also worked on my decision was that I was in Chicago last week mainly to see the Millennium Park ( http://www.millenniumpark.org/ ) and what Chicago did with a cover over train tracks. Amazing, ice rink, restaurants, pavilion, iconic art, and no shade structure.