Neighbors welcome Apple’s plans for empty lot | nnbw.com
Rob Sabo
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Neighbors welcome Apple’s plans for empty lot

Every time she looks out the front window, Belen Morales, manager of BJ's Hair Shop on Evans Avenue, has stared at a barren dirt lot across the street from the salon for the six years she's been employed there.

The blighted lot at Fifth Street and Evans Avenue in downtown Reno soon could get a major facelift from a big-name tenant, though. Apple recently announced plans to construct a distribution facility as part of an additional $1 billion investment in its operations in northern Nevada.

The site was formerly home to a warehouse that was demolished following heavy winter snows in 2005. It's been a vacant dirt lot ever since. For awhile the lot used for impromptu parking for Reno Aces baseball games, but a chain-link fence went up about a year ago that put a kibosh on the free parking.

Morales is all for the Apple project.

"I think it is fabulous that we will have something across the street," she says. "We have a lot of traffic this way anyway, so I don't think it will have a huge impact. We probably will have more police patrol, and more lighting.

"We have a great little area here," she adds. "This is not a bad spot for them. It will only benefit all of us, and I think it is a great thing."

The area surrounding Fifth and Evans site was part of the sweeping Tessera redevelopment project, which called for 1.2 million square feet of mixed-used development. That project ultimately never transpired as the hard-hitting recession scuttled developers' plans for the district.

Apple five years ago announced a $1 billion dollar investment in northern Nevada to take place over 10 years, and accomplished that spending goal in five years as it built out its data center at Mustang. The tech giant recently announced it will increase its investment in northern Nevada by an additional $1 billion to expand on its data center and construct a distribution facility in downtown Reno.

Apple originally wanted to lease the downtown land but now wants to purchase the property to build its distribution facility. The land is held by Northern Nevada Urban Development Company, the proposed developers of the Tessera District.

Buying the land is a key part of Apple's investment strategy in northern Nevada, said Apple representative Mike Foulkes to the Reno City Council.

"We spent a long time trying to find a good site in town that would be good for us and the city," Foulkes said. "To make the kind of investment we are willing to make, we need to own the property. It is not the type of investment you make on a leased property."

Apple's investment in the downtown facility would be in excess of $4 million, Foulkes says, and the new facility would mirror the look and feel of Apple's retail and employment centers.

"We are working to really make it a showpiece for downtown," he says. "We think it will be the most beautiful building in that corridor. For us, beauty is important."

It wouldn't take much to be named the most beautiful building in that area, although the area does exude the rustic charm of old Reno with many old brick buildings. Fifth Street and Evans Avenue are home to older 1960s homes and some even older apartment buildings — one dates back to 1908. There also are several older storage warehouses in the adjacent areas.

Stantec Consulting Services in March filed a special use permit with the City of Reno that details plans to build a 27,000-square-foot warehouse/distribution center on 1.38 acres at 520 Evans Avenue. The facility would be built to accommodate between five to seven truck deliveries each day from Sixth Street. The facility would employ between eight and 12 people, although office space could accommodate 15 or so employees. This mirrors what Foulkes told the city council.

The proposed building would be constructed using a combination of masonry, metal panels and resin panels, the Stantec permit states. It also would include new eight-foot sidewalks with deciduous trees planted every 30 feet along Evans, Fifth and Sixth streets. Forty trees in total and 240 shrubs would ring the property, and signage would be limited to address signage on Sixth Street and Evans Avenue.

Josh Rosenstock, Apple spokesman, said in a statement in early May that the Silicon Valley tech giant supports more than 700 jobs in Nevada.

"Nevada is home to our largest solar investment, powering our data center with clean energy. We're excited to be increasing our contributions to the local economy with an additional $1 billion investment to expand our data center and supporting facilities. As part of our growth we plan to hire 100 employees and expect construction will support an additional 300 jobs."