News 11-25-08 - 100 North Sierra Ideas

So I received an interesting email the other day, from someone associated with or interested in 100 North Sierra. This building, located on the corner of 1st and Sierra, across from Silver Peak, is on my list of eyesores for downtown. So this person who emailed me thought it would be good to gauge public opinion on what you feel would go best in that building, to quote him 'I think this property is missing the creative inspiration from the people who would benefit most from it. It would be interesting to see what the people, who frequent downtown, would want this property to become. I'm a full believer in the downtown redevelopment process and would love more reasons to go there. Most great downtown areas are jam packed with bars, café's, boutiques, and eclectic shops, this property can accommodate all of the essential elements to a vibrant downtown." If you've never been in 100 North Sierra (also known as the PC Penney Building), it's three floors plus a full basement floor. I'm never one to deny a reader some discussion, so let's talk about it in the comments area! What would be ideal here? I'm not sure just more plain ole retail is the answer, I'm thinking some service oriented businesses, like a dry cleaners, dog groomer, perhaps a Trader Joes. Maybe a museum? A science center?
It would be my guess that since interior renovations haven't started yet, that little to none of the space is leased yet, thus delaying the project. I remember something about a beauty school going in the upper level, however I haven't heard anything new in months.



Post your comments
Posted by: Chester - 11/25/2008 2:15:08 PM
The bottom floor should be a doggie day care. This will serve two purposes. 1) The condo owners need a close location to leave their dogs when they go to work. 2) people love looking at dogs…They should expand and enlarge the windows around the first floor to let people watch the dogs play. Of course, sound proofing should be incorporated into the construction.

Posted by: Justin Shore - 11/25/2008 2:26:35 PM
A Cell Phone Store/Dealer. There is not a one downtown.

Posted by: IP - 11/25/2008 3:21:26 PM
First off I have to point out the obvious in the artist's rendering. Sierra Street is southbound only and the green car is going the wrong way. Now that that is out of the way..... The more I thought about a single use application the harder it was to not see any single occupier that could use the space, or even one floor, redundant for downtown. Reno has A LOT of different things downtown within walking distance of each other. This brought me to the next idea that the two things Reno really lacks are an informational hub that is current and interesting and a community garden space. Now correct me if I am wrong but there doesn't seem to be a single place downtown that can provide information on the what, where, when, who, and how of everything Reno has to offer. What if the 100 North Sierra building was converted into a welcome center of sorts with sample displays from such places as Nevada museum of art, Discovery Museum, West Street market, The Rodeo, the ball park, smaller art galleries, virginia city, information on all the different events, casinos, clubs, restaurants, projects, and history of reno, as well as information on downtown parking and transportation options. Maybe include in there a centralized box office. The community garden space is inspired by community gardens in places like Irvine and Santa Monica. There are people that choose to live downtown that still enjoy having a plot to grow some fresh veggies or herbs. Why not build a green house on the roof of the building and rent out plots? Maybe do a tie in with the student community garden being developed at the university. In all this brainstorming one other thing came to mind and that was a quiet place. Or at least a place to sit and relax for a few without being pestered and out of the weather. In that line of thought why not make the second and third floor outer walls glass and set out some chairs and tables. This way people working their way through downtown can sit and relax and watch the crowds on sierra or city plaza. All just thoughts. Right now the building as it sits really kinda puts a cramp on the nice upbeat and open feeling to the 1st street corridor that has happened with the improvements around West street and the City plaza. Lets open the building up or at least alter it's perceived presence to something more airy and open.

Posted by: LoftGirl86 - 11/25/2008 3:24:35 PM
I was going to say a gym but I saw a sign in the red building across from the Montage for a gym opening soon so that's good. I know it would be expensive, but you know what would make that space a hit in an instant? A skyway between the parking garage on top of Cavanaugh's and the JC Penney building. Direct access from the parking garage via a pedestrian bridge would make it perfect.

Posted by: Jason S - 11/25/2008 3:37:25 PM
The building is too large for any one retail outlet to use. And it's not really set up properly for multiple retailers. A three story department store? no way. I think it is time to see something upscale like this http://www.jc.org/about/virtual_tour_tc.asp. If you have ever been to the Jonathan Club, it is quite exquisite, and combines an upscale library, fitness center, dining area, meeting rooms, cigar room, and more.

Posted by: Marc - 11/25/2008 3:43:16 PM
Trader Joe's would be awesome. Love that place, but it's too chaotic and too far south to go very often. Everything else I can think of sounds too cliche for downtown development or already done - coffee, bars, retail, restaurant(s). Hmmm...how about a roller rink in the basement? It would continue the idea of skating downtown that the ice rink provides, and our derby teams could make use of it. I have fond memories of shopping at the downtown JCP with my mom as a child, then more memories of shows at the Fallout Shelter in the basement in the 90s. Good times. Hopefully it's not destined for the wrecking ball.

Posted by: Bugsy - 11/25/2008 3:48:05 PM
Ahh Mike, good to see you posting again..I was getting downtown makeover withdrawls HAHAHA. As for my suggestion on this property, Reno is becoming a some what of a sports town ( reno aces, reno bighorns, the possible minor league hockey team and of course universty of nevada)I would love to see a ESPN zone there. Its a great place to have a bite to eat before or after a game. Its family friendly for both the small kids and the big kids.

Posted by: Bugsy - 11/25/2008 3:59:52 PM
A Trader Joes would be great downtown. But the perfect location is the ground floor of the Riverwalk Towers. It a perfect size and would do terrific across the street from the West Street market. The people who shop at a urban market is the same clientel who shops at Trader Joes.

Posted by: Native Boy - 11/25/2008 6:43:32 PM
Do you all seriously think there's enough density or foot traffic downtown for ANY of these ideas? Parking is difficult enough given the attractions we have there now, and our City Council keeps playing with the meter rates to test our level of tolerance. We have culture...we have sports... we need people and support services. I saw a man throwing up on that very corner this afternoon, and not one policeman or public servant in sight to see if he needed assistance. We have a plaza, we have parks - we don't have very many restaurants (other than Silver Peak and small food chains) in that area to really attract people downtown now. The Starbucks is closing, the buildings are empty, the Montage isn't taking residents yet - what makes anyone think this is anything but a free way to poll for "best use" to gain our emotional support? Come on people - we're in a recession. We may be in one for a year or more ahead - hopefully not longer. The windows of this property have become really interesting pieces of art, but certainly not telling of anything other than window dressings. Another developer sending Mike cryptic emails for public input is flattering and promising - but financially, not very realistic. Sure...we all want a better downtown, and we have a good one - but thinking anyone will be able to develop anything less than viable retail is pie-in-the-sky today. Think like a developer, and you'll see now is not the time to invest in anything until the credit markets return.

Posted by: Native Boy - 11/25/2008 6:52:07 PM
OR...how about a Lucky Strike Bowling Center and a Luxury Boutique Hotel! That should detract from everyone's pain that 475 people are about to lose their jobs at Fitzgerald's later next week. Maybe a bridge we can sell the tourists? Reno needs to adjust it's perception in the general public before it's going to attract any major new investors. We've got a long way to go before any serious investment downtown is going to overcome today's stranglehold on developers. We'd best work on our destination perception before we "build it and they will come" mentality takes root.

Posted by: DowntownMakeoverDude - 11/25/2008 7:35:20 PM
Hi Native Boy, lets address some of your points. 1. Starbucks is closing because there are 2 other ones downtown within a half mile.
2. If you are truly a native of Reno, then you know that Fitzgeralds was doomed to close long before L3 Development came along.
3. Your argument that downtown doesnt have restaurants that attract people doesnt hold up, considering the majority of restaurants named in Reno RNR and RGJs Best of Reno lists voted by natives like yourself are located downtown or within the vicinity of downtown.
4. The developer was not the one who emailed me, because I know who the owner of the JC Penney Building is. It may have been a broker of the project but so what? To me its pretty progressive and forward thinking to poll the public on what they would like to see downtown, no matter WHO it is.
5. If you expect law enforcement to be on every corner right there for every person in need, you are dreaming. Talk about pie in the sky. NO city is like that, gimmy a break. And t ocounter your argument, I spend a LOT of time downtown and pass by at least one or two police foot-patrols on every walk I do.
6. You act like anybody developing or planning a project in Reno are a bunch of morons. I suggest you add up the amount of money invested into purchasing property downtown the past few years. It comes out to hundreds of millions of dollars between the office building purchases, land purchases, and redevelopment projects. You think the combined vision of all of those multiple investors is a mute point because were temporarily in a recession?
7. Public perception of Reno? Considering the record-breaking out of town crowds each of our annual events bring, I think Reno is holding its own in terms of public perception. I talk with out of town visitors extensively, I talk with locals extensively. Guess who has the worse perception of Reno? The locals. I am not trying bash anyone, but the lack of community pride in this town is amazing...just cruise RGJs comments section to see. I refuse to let in to that kind of thinking, which is why my blog is almost 3 years old and still going strong. To think that we should all just sit back and be glum and not even toss ideas around simply because were in a recession is pretty narrow-minded.

Posted by: Native Boy - 11/25/2008 8:21:32 PM
Interesting points, but: 1) Why close a Starbucks right underneath Reno's newest development soon after it opened? Do you really think it's because there were others within a half mile? Or was it because the store wasn't making enough money to be viable? The decision to close that location was based on a much larger business model - not a density or proximity study. Still ...that new corner is dark today - soon after it was opened. 2) Fitzgerald's was opened in 1976. I was here then, and remember it well. I didn't say anything about L3 Development - but the fact is, they're closing it now after a good long run, and the right side of our symbol of Reno - the arch - will be dark next week. Not a good picture to invite future development, or invite confidence from investors. 3) A local paper's contest for popularity does not make a restaurant profitable. Go ask them if they're profitable now, and you'll see they aren't - noone is at present - downtown or city wide. Popularity does not equal profitability in today's economy. The rules have changed, and survival is the mode that matters. 4) Agreed. But if they're prepared to actually build something, why poll the public for ideas? Why not present a plan like other developers do, and invite public comment? I'd welcome a real plan - not a public opinion based on nothing. Again, that's just "pie-in-the-sky" thinking, and not an actionable plan that will result in anything other than these kind of long diatribes. 5) I expect law enforcement downtown. My taxes and our public deserve it. No...not on every corner, and not at every moment - but I do expect their presence to be seen and felt. I don't expect to see people throwing up, and the mess left behind. Call me naieve, but if you're seeing foot patrols, and I'm seeing vomiting and panhandling - someone isn't seeing public service taking care of business. I was panhandled three times in three blocks today in the middle of the day - and we're not even a "big" city. Maybe citizen patrols would be helpful - but I don't feel safe walking down there at night anymore for as many times as I've tried in the past months. Desperate times are making for desperate people, and we need more police presence - not a closed station on 1st Street. 6) I'm not "acting" any way. I'm questioning why someone would poll potential use in what is undeniably the worst economic downturn in over 30 years. Are there plans? Or are we simply gaining public comment to steer public perception? I don't think that's "acting", it's questioning. "The combined vision of all of those multiple investors" is not a mute point - it's not even a moot point. And that's not the point at all. You're taking my point out of context in an effort to cheer lead downtown rather than addressing the cold reality of today's economic challenge. 7) Besides popular television programs like Reno 911 (which some of the public actually thinks is filmed in Reno with Reno residents) the Darren Mack coverage and the like, Reno has major perception problems. Casinos are showing increasingly low record profit margins with the related workforce losing their jobs. On what do you base your perception that locals have the worst opinion of Reno - the local "paper"? You've got to be kidding. I have more community pride in my hometown than those who come here for cheap rooms, low limit gambling, and free events. That's why this kind of "what would be interesting" type of "polling" is so frustrating - it's not based on reality - but rather fantasy. I want real solution. Real development. Real progress to get us out of this slump. Not another "gee what should we do with this corner" and "Reno is the best" kind of rally cry. We aren't the best, and we're suffering in the worst of times. If we don't reinvent ourselves for the public - we'll lose more than casino employees, and the model of developing a vibrant urban downtown will fail before it has the chance to succeed. It's time for us to quit funding bad ideas like "America's Adventure Place" and get back to our roots - "The Biggest Little City In the World" - and make it mean something we can all believe in. We have it here - but with the "Can Do" ideas of EDAWN and the like - we need to return to "Have Done and Will Do Again". Bring back Bill Harrah's vision of class. Support the Riverside Artist Lofts. Continue to create a cultural center that invites participation. Not fantasize about development that isn't on paper, and hasn't been funded.

Posted by: True Nevada Blue - 11/25/2008 8:44:50 PM
Native Boy...if you really are one...why dont you put your money where your mouth is, and actually DO something instead of blogging on and on about it? Its people like you that make the rest of us look bad. Get a life.

Posted by: Aaron - 11/26/2008 12:06:48 AM
Downstairs could be a bunch of restuarants and small shops, the upper floors could be executive suites where each office is rentable but with a commom reception. would be interesting for entreprenuers or sole prop businesses like lawyers, tax guys other professionals who might want an executive office downtown.

Posted by: johnfree - 11/26/2008 1:53:02 AM
oh how cool would it be to have a TJ's downtown! But you gotta have plenty of e.z. parking. That abandoned nightclub with the parking lot adjacent for instance (north side of 2nd between Arlington and West - The Babylon? But for your question about 100 N Sierra, gee that's a tough one. What is it good for other than retail? Basketball courts? :)

Posted by: Irv - 11/26/2008 7:03:34 AM
Regarding the posts on the general attributes of "downtown," here are a few comments and suggestions: 1. Police presence in the area to Deter pan-handling. Agreed that this is cost-prohibitive, and sworn officers do have bigger problems to attend to. In Los Angeles, downtown has public safety officers on bikes, in uniform with radios. They are trained as public security officers, but they are not police officers. They are cheaper than sworn peace officers. They patrol the financial center and invite the pan handlers to leave, give directions to tourists, help traffic officers clear jams, and do the lower-level tasks that police officers don't have time to supervise. In a difficult case, they can call a patrol car. The downtown Reno merchants and the chamber of commerce should work with the Council to fund such a patrol force, if there isn't one now. Since we have had this in Los Angeles, it has served the downtown financial center well. 2. Seasonal Themed Special Events. To attract enough new visitors in slow months to help restaurants and inner core business sustain themselves, there should be more special interest activities created. This would draw in special interest visitors, who would rent hotel rooms, buy meals, and patronize downtown shops and casinos. These could include three-day trade and special interest events, with appropriate segment marketing through special interest clubs. Examples: (a) Off-road trails, exploring and equipment, inviting manufacturers, after-market suppliers; specialty garment makers; 4x4 vehicle clubs from California and Utah; (b) Fishing the Reno-Tahoe area, inviting lodging hosts; guides; boat and motor manufacturers; lure and tackle manufacturers; software and hard paper mapping distributors; fish and hunt clubs in California and Utah; (c) Specialty music interests, such as a Great Motown Review, inviting specialty acts; jazz and R & B clubs; email groupy lists of private bands participating in the event; dvd and cd labels; specialty radio audience marketing such as on jazz and oldies stations in adjacent states. (d) The Great R.A. and Semper Fi Reunion Tribute, a special interest weekend inviting Regular Army and Marine personnel and veterans, speeches, Suza band music, specialty wear, documentary historical presentations by local university faculty on American wars, invite all American Legion, VFW, etc posts; These are marketing projects that could help downtown. Usually Reno has ski and gamble oriented marketing, but there are new things to be tried. The more new money brought into the area, the cleaner and nicer the area will become.

Posted by: Mark W. - 11/26/2008 9:19:49 AM
So, Native Boy, what IS the solution? According to you, we are completely off base with our concept of what downtown should be and our input is completely worthless "cheerleading." So what is the perfect solution? You're right, this is a bad time for many businesses. You're right, the closing of the Fitzgerald's casino is a tough pill to swallow and many lost jobs in a time where jobs are a little hard to come by. You're right, this website is a forum for ideas and little in the way of detailed plans of action. However, you're definitely NOT right in thinking that the public opinion is unrelated to success or failure of a business. You're not right in thinking that new development cannot be successful in this economic arena. You're not right in thinking that this website and its author are here to "drum up support" or "cheerlead" - the support is there and many resent your suggestion that their point of view is not valid. Mike puts in more work towards bringing public opinion to government leaders and generally bettering Reno than anyone I'm aware of, so your suggestion that his questions, polls, and discussion are a waste of time is rude and reeks of arrogance. What's the solution, Native Boy? You seem to have a lot of answers, so tell us what your catch-all plan for success in Reno is. "Support the Riverside Lofts?" "Bring back Bill Harrah's vision of class?" Care to elaborate, sir? Economy can turn around, but your suggestion of "wait and see" doesn't give those workers from the Fitz jobs. It doesn't fix any problems or offer a way out of a tough economy - I believe the phrase "you reap what you sow" applies here. Get some answers together and don't be so dismissive. I really would like to hear more, this sort of discussion is really healthy, despite what you seem to think.

Posted by: Larry D - 11/26/2008 10:06:13 AM
There are some great suggestions here. I know of several groups that are working collaboratives who would welcome a small work space downtown. For example: http://renocollective.com/ Although the space is too large for a small group, there may be an opportunity to add support services to the mix, as well as some of the other elements people have suggested in this list. If we could get some smaller businesses located in reasonably priced work space downtown, it might help bring other related business there to follow them - and that might be enough critical mass to make this type of redevelopment a viable business model.

Posted by: renokam - 11/26/2008 10:50:45 AM
I like the idea of TJ's. I lived in Chicago for 5 years before moving back to Reno, and in that experience I have seen multiple successful uses for a building such as this. Most have at least 2 tennants. I've seen a Nordstrom's Rack take up 2 floors, but we need a Nordstrom's first.

Posted by: Native Boy - 11/26/2008 12:05:50 PM
Whoa Mark W...chillax. If I had THE "solution", I sure wouldn't be sitting here writing comments to people like you! When did I say "completely off base with our concept of what downtown should be and our input is completely worthless "cheerleading.'? Maybe you need to adjust your vision and read my comments again. I'm not attacking this site's author, or the comments - I'm making the point that Reno has to get it's public perception in line with reality before new development (or redevelopment) will be viable to a broader audience of people that will actually PAY to live and work downtown. Simple...not threatening to you, I'm sure. If I had answers, I'd give them. But I do have questions - like what are your answers instead of attacking me and my concerns online? If you believe your own phrase of "reap what you sow" - then what is Reno sowing that will reap great benefits? I'm not questioning the validity of this discussion at all - but rather the validity of some developer coming into this market in this economy and investing in this building at whatever this blog says it should do. No matter how healthy the dialogue - if you can't respectfully challenge my viewpoint - then you too will "reap what you sow". Check your attitude, and join the debate. I provided some answers (return to our old city brand and make it mean something... quit giving time to brokers/developers that aren't serious about investing in our community, etc)...what are yours that you ask of me so dismissively?

Posted by: Mark W. - 11/26/2008 2:26:30 PM
Native Boy - Hm. Sorry to get a bit hasty with you. I realize here that you're not naysaying just for the sake of naysaying, but I fell that your comments have portrayed a lack of comprehension of intent. I take this interpretation from your call for "real solution(s)," "real development" and "real progress to get us out of this slump," whilst seeming to either ignore the examples of progress and development (world-famous cultural events alongside progressive redevelopment of previously unsuccessful buildings), or to badmouth the very proposals you seems to be calling for (your commentary about the L3-proposed boutique hotel and the closing of the Fitz). I also think it would be worth your while to visit the City of Reno's website and review their planning documents, which, while a bit dry, are very telling of the amount of work that has gone into the process of revitalizing Reno. However, to address your comments a bit more level-headedly: You've called for a public feedback on a developer's proposal, and I agree that can have some very solid results. One thing that you must consider though, is that the developers who propose these projects and invite public opinion have to do so within the guidelines created by the City of Reno (CoR). Public opinion should inform policy, and I feel that the CoR has made good efforts toward making decisions that are in keeping with the public interest. Furthermore, the author of this site has a very well-established rapport with the members of said government as well as a good connection to public opinion and has on many occasions done EXACTLY what you proposed - put forth a proposal from a developer or planning entity, and invited feedback from the public. Look through the archives of the blog, and you will see this for yourself - almost every major item on a planning or city council agenda is addressed in a post and feedback is often quite interesting to read and contribute to. You've asked about plans - the last decade of change and cultural growth in downtown is a direct result of a detailed and laborious planning process created and maintained by the City of Reno. Admittedly such a plan does not always secure against economic problems, but in this case, the development guidelines, especially along the Truckee River Corridor, are designed to encourage a diverse economic and social background. More simply put, this sort of long-term, very far-sighted planning is intended to create a city that is capable of sustaining itself through greater adversity than your typical suburban development. To prioritize short-term success over long-term viability is akin to putting the cart before the horse, and it will create a bigger strain than it relieves as developers and the CoR struggle in the short-term to maintain a status quo where one may be impossible to keep. As to your comments about foot traffic, density, and parking: again I think the bigger picture is being ignored, as the plan and policy I've mentioned earlier are intended to stem sprawl and increase density. Parking is an issue because people don't want to give up their cars and big houses in the "frontier," not because the CoR hasn't thought about it. I'm sure that if even a third of the crowds at big events allowed a 5- to 10-minute walk after parking their car, the problem would be greatly alleviated. Instead, most will curse the CoR for their idiocy in not razing a building for a surface parking lot next to each event. I am obviously exaggerating a bit, but the car-centric mentality is a big part of the parking "problem" and it is bizarre to me as to how can one reasonably blame local government for it. Getting around to some of my comments - I admit I was a bit harsh with you, so I do apologize for that, but CoR has been sowing the seeds of a brilliant revitalization via their planning and policy changes, and we now have a downtown core that is worth being in. I live downtown. To see the results, think back before the Riverside 12, the Palladio, Silver Peak (and its predecessor Esoteric), the Riverside Lofts, the Rink on the River, ArTown, Street Vibrations, the Wine Walk, the Beer Crawl, the Whitewater Park, and many more - what did you have? You had a bunch of casinos that offered a niche market to a specific demographic. Now there exists a widely varied series of venues, events, places, and people, and you can dispute it all you want but I've seen the proof of these listed examples, and you won't convince me that there's been no harvest from those seeds. You call for a "Have Done and Will Do Again" mentality - it's alive and well, sir. Reno Has Done, and Will Do Again, but you seem to be unaware of the real change that has taken place here over the last decade or so, and of the work that has been done to make that change happen. There is a cultural center here; there are opportunities for participation and discourse - this blog is one of them and there are many others including city council meetings and citizen advisory boards. I admit I was a bit rude before, but I don't detect much humility from your comments, NB and I am not the only one here who has called it out. I'm a fan of discussion, but you've made a few snarky comments and attacked decisions and proposals without offering much in return beyond suggesting an alignment of public perception with reality, and a call for the return of old ideas as a supposedly infallible mantra. Make of this what you will, I think this is potentially a great discussion and I hope it can continue. Again, humbly I apologize and I hope to hear a bit more from your side.

Posted by: David - 11/27/2008 9:02:47 AM
I think a Trader Joes would be absolutely awesome.

Posted by: Tom - 11/28/2008 7:26:30 AM
Tear the building down and build a 4 tier parking structure and undercut the city of Reno's street meters by 25%.

Posted by: Steve Watts - 11/30/2008 11:28:36 PM
May I differ with “Mark W” on a few points, although you do have an impressive vocabulary and a way with words. You may live downtown now, but you certainly did not see it in the 70’s if you disregard the voluminous foot traffic (and dollars spent) as “a niche market to a specific demographic.” Good lord, downtown was thriving then…I don’t care if it was a niche market or not. While 99% of American cities were boarding up storefronts, we had THE niche to bring them here. Your ideas, and the “CoR’s” are a rehash of everything that has been tried in every dying downtown, and they have for the most part failed. Mark W, I hate to break it to you, but Cleveland has “a cultural center.” Buffalo, NY has “a cultural center.” And while we have ArTown and Street Vibrations, Detroit has car shows and ethnic festivals every weekend in the summer. You don’t seem to understand that countless cities have had the same high hopes years and decades before us, and it really just fills in the holes left by the decimation of the local industry. In our case in was gaming. The “CoR” that talked of “diversification” did not realize what made us unique, and put us in the same spot as every other city. Yes, Indian gaming was eating into the market, but with the lack of support by casino owners and the CoR (and the rest of government that built public buildings and courthouses on our prime tourist real estate), it’s like we didn’t even try to compete. I’m from Reno, and will always live here. But let’s have some realism here. You say “let’s have some solutions here.” Well, I have somewhat lower expectations to begin with. It’s still a great city, and I think every little bit we’re doing is positive. But we have bigger issues that you seem to overlook. Yes, a store here and there is nice, but I have never seen downtown Virginia Street as boarded-up as it is now. And where we once saw moneyed tourists, I now see dozens of gangbangers milling around the corner of 2nd and Sierra every summer weekend.

Posted by: Mark W. - 12/1/2008 9:23:02 AM
Steve Watts, I'll admit that not every idea works out 100% as hoped, but I am not convinced that this is a reason to stop trying. I'll also admit that the Reno of the 1970s may have been booming, but surely you can admit that current-day Reno is much different, not only socially, but economically. There's been massive growth in Reno, especially in new suburban developments that has contributed to the slump in downtown as the wealthier move away from perceived decline, and this is something that has also happened in the cities you mentioned. Right now, the development of high-end housing and urban markets is a really great way to turn this trend around by providing a higher quality of life and a reduced cost of living. It's very easy to look at previous high-water mark and say "We should do it the way we did back then," but by making such a decision without accounting for social and economic changes, the results are not likely to be good ones. Maybe I'm wrong, but I still am not convinced that relying solely on tourism and gaming is a good idea, as any sort of slowdown in travel or the overall state of the economy is going to hurt a lot compared to a more varied economic base. What I don't get is the general sense of negativity towards change - almost every famous city in this country grew because it responded well to change - the ones that stuck to a single purpose have languished. Maybe I am overly hopeful here but I don't see why any suggestion to diversify Reno's image is met with such reliable negativity.

Posted by: urbanblog - 12/1/2008 9:36:41 AM
Steve, good comment. I remember when downtown was thriving with casinos and foot traffic, and that was as recently as the late 80s/early 90s. I've long believed that what killed gambling downtown was the corporatization of casinos and the eventual ownership drain from Reno coupled with the 200 hotel room prereq for table games. Every great casino family in Reno either had the founders or their family sell out to the corporate interests, then the regulatory strictures were modified to discourage small investors from building small casinos that had been Reno's bread and butter. What's really interesting is how long the Reno government tried to redline gambling downtown and the casino interests eventually crossing the red line, just to abandon the market later when everything started pointing toward Vegas. Great that you mention Detroit and Cleveland, they're important examples to think about. In all cases if some replacement economic activities are not found and and developed to their full potential, reurbanization isn't going to do much. Reno's sitting in a much more advantageous position than the rust belt cities IMHO.

Posted by: ModGirl - 12/1/2008 11:12:01 AM
Kids Kids Kids.... stop bickering. I got bored and stopped reading the long comments back and forth, could have been my ADD. Anyway, I like the idea of making the second and third floor a place for small businesses like accountants, a small law firm, a dentist, ad agency... something small... offices. As for the first floor, a retail or service that will help the residents who live downtown. Flower shop, dry cleaners, love the doggie day care idea, pet store, hair salon... anything but an empty building. what about a hardware store. Lowes and Home Depot are off the beaten path. Its a pain to drive all that way for a couple of screws. I do like the parking garage idea. we need more parking near the river for sure.

Posted by: DowntownMakeoverDude - 12/1/2008 12:24:58 PM
Hi folks! Long Comments are fine, I enjoy hearing people debate and contribute...after all, I put forth the question and discussion in the first place, for this purpose. A few notes about downtowns in general. Reno was not the only city booming in the 1970s; I have vivid memories of a non dangerous and non violet late 1970s downtown Los Angeles as a kid; my dad worked downtown. I think there are much larger cycles at play that Reno fits into. For example, in the 1980s, nearly every downtown I can think of or visited was abysmal, including parts of NYC, downtown L.A., downtown Reno, downtown San Francisco, and on and on. Then in the mid 1990s, you suddenly see a resurgence of development in downtown Reno, downtown L.A., downtown San Francisco, and the revitalization of Harlem and other northern neighborhoods in Manhattan. There has to be something bigger about these cycles, how they match, and how Reno relates. Beyond that there has to be vision on the part of developers, visitors authorities, and people responsible for getting Renos image out there. And regarding casinos and gambling, there just isnt that vision and synchronicity. It works in Vegas because the developers, the casino owners, and the folks marketing Vegas are all in sync regarding Vegas image. There has to be vision. No one can control that. Otherwise, youd see the Virginian remodelled into a first class casino instead of the nations largest transient housing tower. You wouldnt see casinos being turned into condos, you would see them turn into new hotel/casinos. I know of at least three developers planning on opening non gaming hotels downtown. Think of all the casinos that have closed since I have lived here; Harolds Club, The Fitz, Flamingo Hilton, The Virginian, The Pioneer, The Comstock, Rockys, The Sundowner, Golden Phoenix, etc. When Siena was born from the ashes of the Holiday Casino, it BARELY survived the transition, and is now known more for its nice rooms and business friendly atmosphere than its casino. Golden Phoenix didnt survive its transition from Flamingo, and GSR is barely hanging on after spending $100,000,000+ on its renovations. So the question is why? Also regarding events downtown, from spring to fall there are major events downtown at least every two weeks, way beyond just HAN and Artown. I counted 26 downtown events last year in VisitRenoTahoes massive events calendar, not bad with 52 weeks in the year. We just have to work on the winter events.

Posted by: Mark W. - 12/1/2008 12:33:36 PM
ModGirl - good call with the hardware store - definitely a worthwhile option. A parking garage is only viable as part of another use - do something like the neighbors with parking above retail or sandwiched between retail and housing, that'd be a decent idea. A stand-alone parking garage would kill a beautiful corner and offer little in return for folks who live downtown.

Posted by: toby - 12/1/2008 2:32:32 PM
If we are gong to talk about successful redevelopment, then Denver should be mentioned. They did a fantastic job with the new ball park. Most of the old and abandoned buildings have been turned into great looking condos and restaurants. This area was old, beat-up and crappy looking before. BTW, the basketball game was a blast. I encourage everyone to buy tickets and support our new pro sport teems.

Posted by: Anakin-Marc - 12/1/2008 4:25:31 PM
Just a thought, but why restrict to just that one corner? Just across the alley from 100 N Sierra is the old Woolworth's building. Why not connect the two and with both buildings make something bigger. Maybe a combination downtown retail destination and office complex Could possibly be extended across another alley to take advantage of the Nevadan Tower and the old Riverboat (if I remember, those two are already connected). CalNeva could switch to using the Virginian to make up for lost rooms, as well as have an expanded casino with Virginia Street Frontage. I know it's a *huge* undertaking, but done right, that could completely redevelop an underutilized block in the middle of Downtown Reno.

Posted by: ModGirl - 12/2/2008 10:14:16 AM
Ok, I wasn't bored, I just needed to get some work done and couldn't read all of the comments... and it was my ADD. DowntownDude, You have a great point about what Reno was and what it is today. Its the events that bring people downtown. Its the events that bring people outside of Reno to come stay and play in our area. It's their dollars that help Reno strive (I think). We need visitors. And when they come to Reno we need to keep them here for the weekend. I am working on a little project on what actually brings people to Reno. How do we get people from San Francisco or Sacramento to hang out in Reno for the weekend... not Tahoe.. Reno? They won't come here just to gamble anymore, they can go to the Indian casinos. All in all, they would probably come here for the kayak event, Tour De Nez, Air Races, Rib Cook off, etc. We do need more winter events. In the winter the downtown seems more like a place for the locals. What winter events could Reno do to bring outsiders here during the winter months??? I have no complaints about Reno. I moved to reno in 2003... not to long ago and since then the downtown has changed dramatically. These vacant buildings will be occupied sooner than later which will add great value to our downtown area. There are people out there with a vision, an open mind and tenaciousness that will make it happen.

Posted by: wiley_n_reno - 12/2/2008 10:42:22 AM
Tear it down along with the Woolworth building next door and put in a year round skating arena with temporary seating for 1,500. That or leave it up and build indoor bike velodrome and rock climbing belay walls. It's amazing that Reno/Sparks doesn't have an ice skating venue.

Posted by: Steve - 12/11/2008 4:31:30 PM
While attracting Trader Joe's or something similar would be great, I don't think they are creative enough to lease a space that does not have a parking field in front. What I think the city needs in that location is some sort of entertainment venue that will attract locals as well as tourists. This could be a nite club or a combination of club, billiards, brew pub maybe even with gaming. Something that could draw from the theater across the street as well as the downtown area and the University. It would also benefit from the after work crowd and even the new Baseball Stadium. I understand an ex-superintendant (Doug Bartone) from the Montage is heading up the demo & cleanup work and he was able to price the work well under two (2) well respected GC's. Any idea how to get ahold of him and see if he is taking on any additional work?


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