Reno City Council to view designs for Locomotion Plaza, possibly move forward with funding in place

by Mike Van Houten / Apr 5, 2024

Item D.2 in the April 10 Reno City Council meeting, Reno City Council will hear a Presentation, discuss, and potentially approve "(1) design for Locomotion Plaza and the Virginia Street streetscape furnishings as prioritized in the Virginia Street Placemaking Study Phase One Implementation Plan; (2) using $1,635,000 in State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds received through the American Rescue Plan Act for stage one of Locomotion Plaza, including for infrastructure improvements, event activation, and maintenance services; (3) authorization to award contracts to the best bid in accordance with competitive bidding laws set forth in Chapter 338 of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS); (4) authorization to approve professional service agreements in accordance with Chapter 332 of NRS and City policy; (5) and authorization to award contracts for the purchase of various needed equipment identified by the professional services agreement in accordance with Chapter 332 of NRS and City policy."

I cannot tell you how excited I am for these improvements and to activate this plaza on a year-round basis. Utilization of these public spaces is a critical component (one of many components) for street activation along Virginia Street downtown. 

From the staff report:

"In 2023, Council accepted the Virginia Street Urban Placemaking Study and phased implementation plan. Based on community input and Council direction, the implementation plan prioritized Locomotion Plaza and streetscape furnishings for Virginia Street. On April 10, city staff will bring forward design for these two areas and a recommendation to spend the remaining $1,635,000 of State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds (SLFRF) for stage one of Locomotion Plaza. The first stage of Locomotion Plaza includes long-term infrastructure improvements, placemaking amenities, a seasonal shade solution, and a pilot program for activation and maintenance. SLFRF must be obligated and under contract by December 31, 2024. Funds must be spent by December 31, 2026.

At Council’s direction, the City hired an urban designer to complete designs for Locomotion Plaza and the streetscape furnishings as part of the first phase of implementation. The design scope included management and coordination of design, landscape, survey, and specialty design services, such as geotechnical, structural, and electrical services. The agreement provided 100% design for Locomotion Plaza and the Virginia Street streetscape furnishings as summarized below."

Locomotion Plaza 2.0 - Stage 1 Recommendations

• Site and implement event infrastructure and storage facilities
• Source and implement movable chairs and tables, including
lounge-style chairs
• Pilot a shade structure
• Develop and communicate a plan for recurring events

Area 2  - Streetscape Furnishings Stage 1 Recommendations
• Implement public seating on every block of Virginia Street
• Pilot wayfinding signage with walking distances to districts
and destinations
• Assess opportunities for integration of shade: trees where
not in conflict with underground, other shade
• Assess need for upgrades to event infrastructure


The design contract was budgeted at $365,000, leaving $1,635,000 for implementation activities.

The first stage of Locomotion Plaza would include construction for much of the prioritized infrastructure needed to make the plaza functional for events, as well as funding for activation activities and custodial services for a pilot period between April 2025 and December 2026. Events are expected to begin in the April 2025 timeframe after completion of construction, and SLFRF must be spent by the end of calendar year 2026.

Even more exciting is Stage 2, which is as of now is unfunded. 

Locomotion Plaza Stage 2: Shade Improvements ($3,500,000 - Unfunded):

• Five shade parasols with structural footings

Locomotion Plaza Stage 3: Finishing Improvements ($500,000 - Unfunded):

• Pavers with selfie spot on Virginia Street at entrance to plaza
• Electric upgrades for containers
• West side lighting
• Additional furnishings
• Artistic vent covers

I dont want to focus too much on the future phases right now, because they are unfunded. All told, the estimate for the two future phases of the Locomotion Plaza and a new streetscape on Virginia Street from Maple to Liberty, complete with more trees, shade structures, seating on every block, planters etc, would total an additional $8,000,000. There's probably no chance the City could directly fund that, and it would probably spark some public opposition, BUT, these future phases seem like items that could be folded into other projects, maybe RTC projects perhaps, or would be great candidates for federal grants? 

But, I am beyond excited that a portion of the recommendations from the placemaking study can actually be followed through with a physical manifestation of the plan. I can't even count how many plans and studies have been completed for or about downtown Reno, and it is pretty rare that funds become available to follow through on it, AND it could possibly be up and running for the 2025 event season downtown. 

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