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Reno Citizens Advisory Board Redevelopment Agency Meeting

Greetings folks! Well today was an information packed CAC Meeting. Let's cut right to the chase:

1. The 10 North Virginia Project - Is being awarded to Inverness Equities LLC. Both Fernando Leal's group and Union Capital both pulled out, citing that they wanted to work on their current projects (Union Capital has the 100 North Sierra Building and Leal is doing the Montage). Inverness Equities is headed by John Pappas, who has a very high standing reputation in Northern California. The canopy portion is going to use the last design schematic approved by the City Council which is great news, because that means it won't get redesigned again to fit the retail building. They showed renderings of the retail building itself, and I am going to try to get digital caps from Kristen Rossiter over at RDA. It changed substantially from the previous retail building concepts; it's more square than half moon shaped, and is two stories, instead of 4. This should make the canopy stand out more. Where I kind of run into issues is one of the 'optional build outs' that the developer presented. It involves taking the open area fronting Virginia Street, where the 'grassy knolls' and the art pylons are, and building 2 additional retail buildings there...so there would be a main retail building on the East side as originally proposed, and then 2 buildings on the West side. There would be an opening between the two buildings to enter the plaza. What do you think of this idea? I feel it takes away from the open space, and closes off the plaza from Virginia Street even if there were openings between the two buildings. But, it's the developer preference to build retail buildings on the west side as a second phase, and as it was comically said by another citizen in the meeting, 'He's the only one left'. It is however an option that isnt a deal breaker. Construction would theoritically start June 2008. The next step is review by the River District Sub Committee, and then to the Redevelopment Agency for approval on 10/24/07.
2. Priority Project Update:
Post Office Project - Over the past three weeks, this project took a surprising turn. Previously, it kind of stalled out, and at a CAC meeting a month or so back, Mark Lewis said the project could be stalled out for a couple of years or more. Well, in the past three weeks some 'redevelopment magic' has happened, and they now plan to move forward with their original MOU plan. Things are going so well that Mark Lewis hopes to have something in approval form by the next CAC meeting. Construction of the Plaza portion of the project could start this coming Spring. That would mean both this and the 10 North Virginia project AND the baseball stadium would be happening. Fun! Those coupled, with a hopefully-to-be-announced-soon project on the former Chambolle site next to the Riverside will add a big boost to the Riverwalk. Oh and in some good news for downtown residents, the majority of post office boxes downtown would stay in the building and be fully functional as P.O. boxes.
Beautification Project - Mark Lewis expects soon the Savoy Motel will be torn down in preparation for some kind of gateway art project in conjunction with the University. The Savoy Motel is located on the 700 Block of Virginia Street. Depending on the art this could either be ingeniously cool or go horribly wrong. In other beautification news, the new lighting on Virginia Street between Mt. Rose and Pueblo, is nearly complete. I like the new lights.
Parking Structures - RDA has a commitment to build two parking structures downtown. This doesn't include the proposed eventual parking structure of the Courthouse. One is to be built on the East Side of Virginia Street, one on the West Side. On the West Side, Mark Lewis mentioned they feel they have a good relationship going with a private entity downtown to possibly partner in building a garage. On the East Side, however, he mentioned land prices have skyrocketed, and they are having trouble assembling a site...they are looking for a private partner to work with who owns land in the desired east area for a garage.
Baseball Stadium - Not much to report on since its approval with the county, other than the architect is in action now, and things are rolling to relocate the 60 people that will be displaced when the motel in the far east side of the ballpark property will be demo'd. Here's something interesting mentioned by Mark Lewis. He mentioned two motels on the far east side of Harrah's Parking garage, both of which will likely be demo'd...one sooner than the other. He mentioned in that area 'down the street' a new modern-suite style Brand motel with NO GAMING could be built, ala Embassy Suites or Hilton Garden style. If this is true, this, coupled with Grant's Landing across the river, a new retail district, the Waterfront's retail plans, could transform the east side of downtown. After the presentation, Stacy Crowley stood up, representing the Young Professionals organization, and offered assistance for development of that area, giving a young professionals perspective. Mark Lewis and the CAC Board really took to this idea, citing the need to market downtown to the very group the YPN represents. One CAC Board Member said it's critical that young professionals outside of Reno to perceive Reno differently than they currently do. I think this could be a good partnership. One last thing mentioned is that Evans Street, to cooperate with RTC, will convert into a 'public plaza with low-speed bus access.' ...Interesting?
3. Longs Drugs - "I wish I had good news here" is how Mark Lewis started the report on Longs Drugs. Besides construction not quite being completed, no Certificate of Occupancy, some minor issues with liquor licenses, the real hang up is with gaming issues and limited vs. unlimited gaming permits. Apparently this is entirely at the City level and not at the State level where the problem lies. Mark Lewis, being new to Nevada and the concept of gaming licenses, had trouble even comprehending the issues of what was going on himself. It's hung up in the City legal office, and Longs and their landlord. He mentioned it was 'pretty jammed up'. He expects a memorandum to come out of the Legal Office to the council in the next few months, but this problem appears to be long term. A gentleman in the room who is member of both the Palladio and Riverwalk Homeowners Associations mentioned people living downtown are very unhappy with the situation, and all the parties involved are unhappy as well. All of this over 15 slot machines. No one on the CAC understand why the hold up even exists. Longs is holding out, they will not open the store without those machines....yet Mark felt confident Longs won't pull out completely. So, don't expect any miracles to happen in the next few months regarding this project. Sorry!
Overall it was a very informative meeting, and if everything goes right, there wil be some major construction going on downtown in the next few years.

Comments:

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Posted by: peter - 10/3/2007 6:50:13 AM
I was wondering if there was any mention of the eco channel/ whitewater park extension in the discussion of the post office project as they seem to be connected?

Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/3/2007 9:05:41 AM
Hi Peter! Actually, I believe the eco-channel is tied more to a second whitewater parj extensions than the post office. You might be thinking of the Post Office plaza, with terracing steps down to the river....this was part of the conversion of the Post Office into retail, however I believe they have since separated the two from each other, or they are trying to. The council wants to build the eco-channel and 2nd whitewater park conjunctively, and I think they are in the fund-finding phase of it.

Posted by: Bugsy - 10/3/2007 9:11:49 AM
Good information, but what about the other downtown issues like the indoor farmers market, the kings inn building, the remodel of the fitzgerald hotel casino, the trench cover and the proposed condos....

Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/3/2007 10:57:11 AM
Well Bugsy you can't cover EVERYTHING in just one meeting, or the meeting would last forever. I don't know about the indoor urban market and where that stands. Regarding the Kings Inn, I am unaware of any news, other than Annakin's post about talking to a construction worker who said it may be converted to apartments. As far as the trench cover, I mentioned in an earlier post that Dave Aiazzi is directing staff to see the feasability of using future bonds generated by the Montage project to pay for the gap in funding for the trench cover. You will hear a big announcement in the coming months about the Fitz remodel once he actually purchases it this month sometime. I am sworn to secrecy and don't want to jeapordize any possible deals, but I can tell you I saw the renderings and intricate architect plans for remodelling it from top to bottom. You will not be disappointed.

Posted by: John Andrews - 10/3/2007 12:28:43 PM
I agree that retail buildings on the west side of the former Mapes site would be a bad move. The plaza needs to stay open to Virginia St., especially in front of City Hall.

Posted by: Matthew A - 10/3/2007 9:56:26 PM
Awesome news on all fronts. Thanks for the update Mike.

Posted by: Aidan - 10/5/2007 10:17:39 PM
I still can't belive that with as much publicity the stadium has been getting no one has figured out the the fire station is being demolished and ther is NO PLAN per RFD administration and city council on were to place a temporary station let alone a permanent one. Has every one forgotten already the 12 people who died right across the street from the downtown station less than a year ago? At that time they presented commendations to all the crews for saving countless lives now were placing them in tents and moving them away from the core with, again, NO PLAN on where? Don't get me wrong, the stadium a great idea and will help revitalize downtown, but what happens when the next old run down hotel burns, like the El cortez, or Ross manor, or The Morris etc. It's amazing!! Go talk to the crews down there and they'll tell you the real scoop. I stopped by today and even though they are being booted out their still in favor of the project but just want to be able to still serve the people downtown properly. They say that they were not consulted at all until the last minute and that a "Temporary" station may mean anywhere from 5-10 years! The money for the loan (10 million?) is not enough to even build a new station that could house all of the fire trucks they have now and it isn't even a whole 10 million cause they have to use some of that money to move and set up the temporary stations. The city needs to step up to the plate and take care of our firefighters so they can take care of us!

Posted by: Mike Van H - 10/6/2007 10:50:23 PM
Hi Aidan...I believe that's why the City Council, Jessica S in particular set up a Fire Station Relocation sub-committee, to do just that. The City Downtown Master Plan already had a new fire station plan for over by Keystone in the large parcel West of Keystone and 2nd Street they acquired from the Retrac Project. If you have seen any of the meetings, you would know Jessica my councilwoman was extremely concerned about the increased response time to the Wells Ave area...which right now stands at something like 1:20 seconds...which would increase significantly, but the Fire Department's own report said it would still fall within response mandates if one of the other two nearby fire stations responded. Also, I saw at least on two occasions the Fire Department report directly to the council that they would actually like to vacate the old, outdated building and relocate somewhere that would offer better routes and overall dispatch efficiency. I think we should at least see what the subcomittee comes up with before we start panicking. Trust me, I LIKE that fire station there, it's only about 60 seconds from my neighborhood....so I will be watching closely as well.

Posted by: Anakin-Marc - 10/7/2007 11:10:38 PM
Just a thought regarding Wells, but has anybody with the city considered reaquiring the old Wells fire house (with the Spider Bug on the roof) and utilizing that along with the Keystone location to maintain coverage of both the Wells area, as well as downtown?

Posted by: Fireman - 10/8/2007 7:38:48 PM
Your right, Mike Van H, they are trying to set up a subcommittee, but what Aidan, you and all the public don't realize is that the decisions are being made already. They (City & RFD managment) have already sat down and discussed what the alternatives are and here is the conclusion firsthand--They have no money and no plan. To replace the fire station would cost somewhere between 15-20 million not including land. After exhaustive research of the area there are few parcels that could support a fire station like the current station 1 and if they do find one the cost of land is anywhere from 2-5 million for the lot. Start your calculators. The cost to move the station will be 1.5 million (Estimated). The cost to retrofit the building on 3rd and vine another .5-1 million depending on how good they want to make the living conditions. A second temporary station is proposed at either 4th & valley or another location that would cost another .5 or more to set up a "tent" and a modular building(not including leases & in order to be up to fire code after 6 months it needs to be sprinklered) Another 10-20k a month for a total of a possible 240k a year to place administration in office space somewhere else. And, as stated by our mayor we will be in these "temporary Stations" for 3-5 years. The total estimated cost 3.7 million and we haven't even bought land for the station yet. That leaves 6.3 million on the loan to build a replacement station that including land will cost over 20 million dollars! Keystone is a horrible location and would require an increase in staffing with the placement of another single engine station back in the original area of the current station one to adequately meet response times. 3rd & vine would also duplicate response west of virginia for an area that doesn't recieve the bulk of the calls that we see at station 1. Also, we've been told the decisions will be made and presented in the next week, which makes the committee, even if it is formed, placed in force after the bulk of the major decisions have been made already. The city has also stated that they have no money and have advised RFD management to find "city land first to use before all else". Guess what, there is no other city land except for 3rd & vine. That's why it was chosen not because it works but because it's the right price--FREE! Minutes may not seem like much but think about this.. You are brain dead and not able to be resuscitated after 4-6 minutes of no oxygen and a fire doubles every minute. So on an average fire that starts the size of a 2x2 square area in five minutes would be over 128 square feet (typical bedroom size). And thats just for us to pull up out front and start our attack. In another minutes you'll have two rooms fully involoved. Think about it. Don't misunderstand, I am for the stadium as are most of us, but to demolish the busiest station that serves an area with highest potential for life and property loss with no "realistic plan" is ludicris. Is the Mizpah forgotten already? One day the are giving me and my crew a commendation for "Saving numerous lives" and praising us and our quick response to the incident and now a 5 minute reponse time is "good enough". Build the stadium, iI'm o.k. with that. Demolish our station, I'm O.K. with that too (even though we love this station and have never wanted to tear it down as has been told). Just build us a new one so we can do our job properly and don't place ours and the public's safety on the back burner for 3-5 years.

Posted by: Fireman - 10/8/2007 7:44:58 PM
Anakin-Marc, yes they have. Due to it being turnded into a Homeless shelter all the amenties to make it liveable have been removed, kitchen, shower, etc and would cost @ 1.8 to renovate. But this Station is even older than station one and was determined that we needed a newer station. Also this building is promised to some kind of homeless Foundation (not sure who) for the tune of 800k. Also it would only be able to fit two companies (engine & Truck) when currently there is an engine, Truck a& 2 man squad currently downtown. And due to call volume have for the past 3 years have asked for and additional fire engine and have been repaeatedly turned down.

Posted by: Anakin-Marc - 10/26/2007 1:12:40 PM
Regarding the firehouse... I was walking around downtown headed back from a friend's place a few nights ago when I had an idea: Why not build a combined Greyhoumd and RTC center on 4th where the new station is going in. The current land where the station is could be used for a new firehouse. Still close to downtown, and having all the transit in one location (Amtrak, Greyhouse, RTC) would make things much more convienant especially if any mass transit ideas come up in the future. Just an idea...

 

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