Is it time to revisit Partnership Plaza (old CitiCenter site) downtown?

by Mike Van Houten / Oct 31, 2023

It’s time to revisit interest in Partnership Plaza (old CitiCenter site downtown)

If you aren’t familiar with this property, it’s across the street from the National Bowling Stadium, at 40 East 4th Street.

It was originally the CitiCenter bus station for RTC Washoe. Then, around the same time RTC decided to build a new station on 4th Street a block or so east, The Reno Aces had their eye on this property, and encouraged the City of Reno to purchase it from RTC. This was around 2007 as the land shuffling and deal-making was going on for the new Reno Aces Stadium on Evans Street.

I’m sure there were other motivating factors for the City of Reno to purchase it, and purchase it they did; the Reno Aces had first-rights to develop/buy the property.

They ultimately didn’t do either to the property, as the economy came crashing down in 2009, and only an add-on to the Aces Ballpark called the Freight House, was built.

When the new bus station opened and RTC ceased operations at CitiCenter, the building, now owned by City of Reno, sat unused for years. For a while it was a police substation, occasionally a pop-up venue would happen in one of the two buildings at CitiCenter but nothing concrete or permanent. Downtown Reno Partnership then moved into one of the buildings. 

Then in 2019, the City of Reno thought ‘hey maybe we should do something with this property’ and composed a Request for Interest (RFI), similar to Request for Proposals, but the lite version, and unleashed the RFI to the world.

Letters of interest came back, narrowed down to four finalists who all had a chance to present their concepts to the Reno City Council. There was also a proposal from a Portland-based developer for a mixed-use, mixed-income housing project that didn't make the cut, if I recall. One was called Palindrome, a mixed-use, mixed-income housing project with commercial on the ground floor, one was from the Eldorado Hotel Casino for green space/coffee shop/art gallery, one was a visitors center/Nevada-made souvenir shop from the owner of Nevada Marketplace, and the 4th was called P3, a massive plan to develop the property into an e-sports arena/sports arena with a 100-room hotel on the upper level, which included a skyway over to the Bowling Stadium, and some additions to the bowling stadium as well.

You can find renderings of three of the projects below in my galleries.

The City Council was wowed by the P3 proposal, as was I, and it ultimately won, earning a full presentation in front of the city council.

Unfortunately, the P3 project never got past the vaporware stage, and ended up as a dead project. Boo! I was such a fan of this project, it would have been perfect downtown.

I don’t recall if the Reno City Council then went back to the other interested parties and asked if they were still interested, or perhaps enough time went by that none of the other parties were interested.

Eventually the property was unofficially renamed Partnership Plaza by the DRP.

Most recently, a monthly food truck event was staged at the property with success, throughout the summer.

But, and this is a big but, I think the property is still massively underutilized. The DRP does amazing work, but I think any future proposals for this property could include office space for them. I think the Eldorado’s proposal did include office space for them.

Alicia Barber of the Barber Brief also wrote about the underutilization of this property back in April, wondering if Requests for Interests would be re-opened...which you can read here.

This property/land could easily be valued at $5 million, given what other downtown land and property sold for.

If a developer was interested in building, say, a ten+ story housing project or even better, and affordable or semi-affordable housing project, the city could sell the property below market value just to help jumpstart the project. Or maybe even gifted to a developer with stiplations that shovels will be in the ground within a year of signing the deal, with rights to acquire the property back if the project falls through...or maybe the land transfer doesn't happen until the project is complete.

We want housing, right? And we want dense housing downtown? This property has a bigger footprint than Park Tower, so something tall could easily be built here complete with a parking garage. Or, if need be, could be something similar to Eldorado’s proposal of a green space with a coffee shop and art gallery.

And that brings me to the title of this post. I feel like it’s time to see if there’s any interest from developers by putting out another RFI, and see what comes back. I don’t think it costs the city anything to gauge interest in the property. And it really does need to be used for something more than DRP’s office and a monthly food truck event. It’s in the heart of our city, it’s prime real estate, and it could help activate Center Street and make the Bowling Stadium even more attractive for tournaments and events.

So, what do you say, Reno City Council? How about a ‘round two’ for RFI’s for this precious property? And to my readers, what would YOU turn this property into?

P3 Proposal

Eldorado Hotel Casino Proposal

Palindrome Proposal

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