RAAB Meeting Report
The RAAB is short for Redevelopment Agency Advisory Board, and they typically preview redevelopment-oriented projects and receive updates prior to those items going to the city council, so the city council can take into account the advisory board's comments and discussions on the matters.
It's a great place to scope out information about projects early-on. It was a busy RAAB meeting today so let's get right to it.
Siegel Group/Brick Park
As I reported here, Siegel Group significantly scaled back their plan for West Street Plaza. Originally, their plan was to take full control/possession/lease the full plaza, but presented a significantly scaled-down version which you can read about here, that only involves the 2,500 s.f. area between the handicap ramp and the building where the garden is. It was RAAB's recommendation in their last meeting to not sell the land to Siegel but instead lease it. In today's RAAB meeting, Andy Bass, the Parks and Rec director for City of Reno said that the Parks and Rec Commission mirrored RAAB's comments, and also recommended not to sell Brick Park to Siegel Group. In an upcoming February 24 council meeting, the minutes from both RAAB meetings and the Parks and Rec meeting will head to the city council, along with proposals/options to both lease and sell the land. Aiding them in their decision-making will be an updated appraisal of property which should be completed this week, to determine proper lease-price of 2,500 square feet to lease, and what the selling price should be, if the council chooses that option. They had an appraisal done a year ago but felt the market has changed in city's favor since then. I may be projecting a bit here, but judging from the outcomes of any meeting having to do with this land and Siegel Group, I would be surprised if the city council chose the option to sell it. A draft-term sheet will be included in staff report for the February 24 meeting.
This is the project headed by the Reno Streetcar Coalition, to pursue putting a streetcar rail system downtown through Midtown, and maybe make it part of the Virginia Street Complete Project to save construction costs. It was hard to keep up with this topic/presenter, but from what I gather, the RTC board somehow denied the Streetcar Project funding for further study, basically 'abstained' from being the parent of this project, and directed Streetcar Coalition to work with the community to raise funding. RTC is not going to spearhead any further studies regarding the project. RTC's last estimate put the cost at $30 million per mile. RAAB board member Mike Steadman asked why not just do a streetcar/trolley car on wheels, but RTC has not yet discussed any alternatives to streetcars. The safety of streetcars was briefly discussed before moving onto another topic.
The concrete deck is poured! Yay! As you might have experienced, First Street at Virginia Street is shut down to work on utilities. Retaining walls are being built up on the north side, and the forms for the steps and walls are next week. Regarding the plaza - it was mentioned the Reno Aces have a contract for the ice rink for one more year. Now that the plaza, located in front of city hall between 1st Street and the river, is all torn up, there are people who have expressed interest in developing that property. Below is a pic of a previous concept for this property. Wouldn't it be cool to get something like that again, and still have room for an ice rink? It was mentioned this will possibly will go before the city council to find out if they want to entertain the idea of redoing that property while it's still all torn up. More info within a month. I imagine time is of the essence on this one, because if this property were to be built out differently, one would want to do it before it's converted back into a plaza. Thoughts?
The ReTRAC covers are the large flat cement plazas between West Street and Virginia Street, and span two blocks. The Montage, Eldorado, and Whitney Peak Hotel are adjacent to the plazas. Railroad tracks run underneath them. The City Council approved all of the community data gathered during community outreach earlier in December. The Council approved moving forward with the Nevada Museum of Art to hold a charette, a meeting of the minds to whittle down the community input to a few incredible ideas. The Nevada Museum of Art wants to use its new skyroom to stage the charette, with 24 nationally known architects and designers working together to come up with concepts. This will happen within the next month and a half or so, and then we'll have a much clearer picture of what the covers could look like. It will be an 8-hour brainstorm session that will be video-taped. Once ideas are flushed out, there will be public input, stakeholder property input (those directly neighboring the trench covers), then go back through the process of the Redevelopment Advisory Board, probably the Ward One Neighborhood Advisory Board, and finally the city council. Once approved, funding options can be pursued/discussed. I remember hearing some discussion about neighborhood improvement grants, and maybe surrounding property owners contributing.
University Center Regional Plan
The University of Nevada Center Regional Plan is not a new thing, you can read it here. The current plan, adopted in 2005, for the most part turns its back on downtown and focuses future development to the east of the University. See the map below.
Things have changed a lot since then, with the IBM Smarter Cities Challenge, the Mayor's Institute of City Design, and a new Council Strategic Plan Priority all coming together to propose closing the gap between downtown and the university, and develop a 'university gateway' and 'University Town' image. Last year city adopted and expanded university boundary into the downtown core. Now, the University of Nevada Center Regional Plan will be amended to officially 'make it so' and add specific details in what to develop. Now there's a plan to expand RTC RAPID north to UNR (Check out the official plans here.) You can see how the map has changed below.
In a way, you can look at this as the city's formal process to commit to making downtown and all of Reno a 'university city'. We can break down the changes/additions here:
1. Campus Gateway District - Between 8th and 9th and Evans and Virginia Street. Development in this space would serve UNR's "core mission", and public-private partnership opportunities exist which could involve both UNR, the city, and private development. This includes creating a gateway presence along Virginia Street between 8th and 9th streets that would serve as a multi-model HUB (you can read details here and also here), vacating alleyways, unifying landscape, and more. The plans also call for making Center Street pedestrian only between 8th and 9th Streets, and incorporating RTC's plans to expand RAPID up North Virginia Street, creating several multi-modal hubs in the process (8th/9th Street, 12th Street, see concepts below).
2. University District (south of I-80) - The key focus here would be UNR-related development, but with no UNR ownership in the near term. IT would require private/public partnerships between the City and private entities, and UNR should play a stimulant role to show commitment.
3. Outlying Areas (University Sphere of Influence) - Focuses on high intensity development. With university's projected growth in students there is huge demand for private sector housing in university district.
3rd Street Flats
Now looks very different than the old Kings Inn! The 7th floor has been fully framed and is a combo of spacious one- and two-bedroom units. It was reported there's a wait list of 200+ people for these 90 or so rental units. They are looking for opening early summer to fall this year.
Downtown Action Plan
Details about a "Downtown action plan" will be released in February. It will be a tactical plan scoping around the boundaries of the downtown special assessment district. Soon they will be asking consulting teams to submit proposals to outline tactical interventions and solutions that can be implemented in under and over 18 months. They hope to have plan done in 7 months. Quickly and aggressive. Any land use changes will dovetail with the downtown master plan which deals more with land use. The plan will address challenges related to blight, homelessness, weekly motels, plus positives like increase housing options, investment etc. The RFP will be set not to exceed $100,000.
RTC's 4th Street Transit Corridor Project
This is RTC's massive 4th Street project which will re-pave and restripe 4th Street from Evans to Prater Way in Sparks. Much like the planned project for Virginia Street through Midtown, it also includes plans for new landscaping. There will be 8 bus stops along 4th Street, and much like the RAPID route on Virginia Street, will include special bus stations for the 8 stops on the route. They are 90 percent done with design of those stations. Utilities will be put underground starting late 2016, roadway construction begins in 2017 and rapid transit implemented in 2018. Plans call for 4 new electric buses on the route, wider sidewalks and 8-foot bike lanes. The lane configuration will change from Evans to Sutro and be one lane in one direction and two lanes the other direction. Sutro to Pyramid way will be one lane each way. Rapid stations will be 1/4 apart and include stops on Sutro, Prater, and Galletti.
If you go to 4thprater.com you can put in suggestions for name of the new RAPID bus line! Also can select color scheme of transit stations on web site. After the presentation, Mike Steadman brought up the point that when this process started they didn't know about parklets and other options, and asked Warren Call, the presenter from RTC, if he had heard of parklets and he replied said no. Discussion ensued about the benefits of parklets. They point out with RTC's plan there would be no room for parklets in the future along 4th Street. With a lot more businesses going up on 4th street than 2 years ago, they may want to keep that option open.