Virginia Street Bridge
It was a packed agenda today as the City Council addressed several critical items. First up, the Virginia Street Bridge. From the options below, they chose the bowstring truss, the arch railing design and the pewter color. Construction could begin in 2014. While that seems like a long time from now, when you count how long I have been reporting on this dang bridge replacement, it'll feel like a few hours from now, ha!
Bowling Stadium Improvements
The next hot item on the agenda was the bowling agreement. Some people made a stink about this, but I didn't see the big deal when one of the primary reasons for enacting the $2 tax tax in the first place was to rehab the bowling stadium and possibly Reno Ballroom is there was money left over. The deal involves the conference hosting at least 10 championship tournaments in Reno between 2019 and 2030.
Alcohol License Fees
Council decided to move forward with an expedited public stakeholder input process for an up-to-100% increase for all alcohol license fees across the board, including packaged liquor, beer, wine, dining room, cabaret etc. Cashell was adamant the process wrap up by the time the November election rolls around, so any businesses renewing their fees soon after will be in for a little surprise. Still, even with the fees essentially doubling, they are substantially less than Henderson and Las Vegas, according to charts presented to the Council by Alex Woodley, chief code enforcement officer. They also haven't been raised in 15 years, according to Dave Aiazzi. Jessica Sferrazza had concerns about the impact to businesses in Reno about a sudden increase in fees, even if it's been 15 years, and suggested a stepped approach to raising the fees over a three-year period.
100 North Sierra Up to Something?
The City of Reno approved a parking agreement with 100 North Sierra (across the Street from the Parking Galleria) to allow parking spaces for certain businesses going into that building in future development, excluding KOR Fitness. I wonder if they found a tenant for the first floor, or possibly prepping things to more aggressively go after possible tenants. Either way, it helps 100 North Sierra fill the building.
Post Office Sale
This discussion went on for over an hour so here are the highlights:
1. Downtown residents who spoke in the public comment section were not happy about the new location the post office is relocating into (Downtown Marketplace's old space in the Parking Galleria facing Sierra Street between 1st and 2nd Street.) Security and inconvenience were two common reasons for opposition. Several historians were also on hand to voice concerns over the preservation of the building.
2. The Post Office chose the Sierra Street location over others, including Arlington Tower's large vacant retail space and the National Bowling Stadium space.
3. While people in the public comments were upset no RFP went out to invite other developers to make a purchase, Cashell fired back that no other developers have come forward in the 15 years the city has been pursuing the downtown post office, and that 8 other projects didn't involve an RFP process. John Shipman added that while the City of Reno would be required to go through stringent public process, because this property is in a redevelopment zone, the Redevelopment Agency is not bound by those restrictions, primarily to facilitate the purchasing of blighted property swiftly, one of the goals of a redevelopment agency. That didn't ease the mind of Jessica Sferrazza, who felt there was no harm in waiting 30 days to see if any other developers with financing would come forward to purchase it.
4. The post office is going to move regardless.
5. The city had to offer a pretty sweet deal to the post office (10 years free rent excluding CAM fees) but Economic Development Administrator Pete Wallish pointed out this loss would be offset by the current post office property being added to the tax rolls, of which right now it's excluded from property tax. Also, Suite 1A, where the post office is relocating to in the parking galleria, has remained on the market for 4 years with no bites to lease it.
6. The City could not do an RFP for developers for a property they don't yet own.
7. City Council was not happy about learning about the discussions the RDA was having with 50 South Virginia LLC just last Friday in the staff report.on the news, when in actuality, RDA was talking with that particular development group months prior.
They decided to continue the agenda item Friday morning at 8 am, in order to give the developer some time to come up with information they were requesting. However you could just hear the urgency and motivation in nearly all city council members and the mayor to get this deal done. Had this development group, which includes midtown developer Bernie Carter, not stepped up to the plate back the city purchasing it, then the post office would have gone on the open market for $2.2 million, and possibly had been scooped up by someone with demolition-happy intentions the City Council/Historic Resources Commission would have no power or oversight over. With over $5 million needed in repairs ,not including any redevelopment renovation, very few developers would pursue keeping the building.