Deciding which Carson streets will have no name

Getting rid of several downtown street blocks has paved the way for the modern landmarks that define Carson City.

The Ormsby House, the Carson Nugget, the year-old Carson City Courthouse plus the Legislative Building and Nevada Supreme Court all sit on land that once carried streets dating back to Carson City's beginning.

Since Carson City was consolidated as a city/county in 1969, some three dozen blocks have vanished from street abandonments to make way for buildings, parking lots or plazas and parks.

The downtown core still has a number of streets that could be ideal for uses other than streets, some think.

Spear, Telegraph, Proctor, Third and Fourth streets are already one-way in the first block west of Carson Street. Any of those streets could disappear from the map in coming years, said Rob Joiner, director of the Carson City Redevelopment Authority.

"We've talked about which of those can go away," Joiner said. "What we've made one-way from Carson has worked wonderfully."

Proctor and Fourth streets have already attracted developers. The demolition of the 1940s garage and the former Cafe Del Rio building could claim a block of Fourth Street for a proposed office/retail building.

Also, a block of Proctor may yield to a Lucky Spur redevelopment project. Ann Street on the east side of Carson Street may give way to a joint project with the Children's Museum of Western Nevada and the Hardman House.

For more than a year, the city and Carson Nugget have had lukewarm talks about abandoning the two blocks of Fall Street and a block of Spear Street that bisects the Nugget parking lot.

The 1999 Legislature allotted $300,900 to convert those street blocks into additional parking and also restripe the existing parking more efficiently, Joiner said.

The project would add about 70 parking spaces plus landscaping. In return for more parking, the Nugget is being asked to move its valet parking a block to the east and also agree to allow general public parking.

Complicating the matter is a lawsuit the Nugget filed in March regarding its 1970s abandonments of another block of Spear Street and a block of Plaza Street. The Nugget, Carson Station, developer Dwight Millard and City Hall are debating whether the city should refund fees developers paid for past street abandonments and whether the city should charge for future abandonments. The Nevada Supreme Court may eventually rule on the matter.

Joiner doesn't think the Plaza-Spear lawsuit should get in the way of the Fall-Spear deal but Nugget General Manager Brian Smith said the lawsuit needs to be resolved before another abandonment is agreed to.

"Until the other thing (the lawsuit) is done, this is pointless," Smith said. "So far (the parking lot proposal) is just an idea. There are things we want to see. There are a lot of things that need to be done and they haven't gotten back to me. It's all on hold."

Carson City had a flurry of street abandonments in the 1970s with a renewed effort to erase streets in the later 1990s. The keen interest in removing downtown streets stems from the way Carson City was platted in the early 1860s with blocks only 170 feet long.

"When Lyle Stewart did our Core Area Design Plan in 1988, he said, 'I've never seen such short blocks,'" Joiner said.

Because of the short blocks, 30 percent of the downtown land is street, compared with the normal balance of 20 percent, Joiner said.

The design plan, drafted two years after the city established a Redevelopment Authority, provided many innovative suggestions to reconfigure downtown.

Stewart recommended making Carson Street one-way southbound and Stewart Street one-way northbound. He envisioned a continuous off-street parking lot on Nevada Street from King to Washington streets. Stewart also drafted a civic center west of the Carson City Library with City Hall on the site that now houses Smith's Food and Drug.

One suggestion implemented was creating a plaza between the Nevada State Museum and the former First Interstate Building, which required abandonment of a block of Caroline Street.

Small blocks severely limit the size of developments. The only way the Legislative Building, the Supreme Court and the Legislative Plaza could be built was by claiming nine city blocks that was the old Chinatown early in the 20th century.

"Because of the smallish size of the lots, the streets are the key - how they are abandoned and how they are master planned," said developer Tom Metcalf of Metcalf Builders.

Metcalf and Richard Staub partnered in eliminating a block of 10th Street a year ago to build a pair of office buildings and the yet-to-open theme restaurant with the signature wood windmill. The restaurant, Red's Old 395 Grill, is to open June 5.

"We ought to take the downtown area and do a master plan of streets that can be abandoned and which can't," Metcalf said. "Then we should look at which should be one-way or two-way or without parking or should they be parking streets."

Joiner said the streets with stoplights will stay in place. These are William, Washington, Robinson, Musser and Fifth streets.

Supervisor Robin Williamson, who chairs the Redevelopment Authority, sees street abandonments as a way for quality improvement downtown.

"I'm trying to get some type of vision and a master plan developed," she said. "I'd like to see a consensus among the city's groups that says, 'I see this area good as a plaza."

Williamson used a plaza as an example while thinking of the state museum's small park that sits on what used to be Caroline Street.

"I think the plaza between the museum and FIB building is real positive," Williamson said. "I see people around there all the time. Any time you can get people out of their cars and walking you make that experience more positive."

Mayor Ray Masayko doesn't want to hurry abandoning any streets.

"When the freeway is built, Carson City will still have a quaintness with small blocks," Masayko said. "Small blocks add to historic preservation."

Masayko doesn't encourage City Hall initiating street abandonments but he is willing to look at proposals from developers that need more space than a small block provides.

"A lot of the time it works because of a vision from the business community," he said. "You want to assure reasonable traffic circulation but help the folks use their property for the best value."

Several downtown streets have vanished over the years to make way for a variety of development:

King Street from Carson to Curry (originally for the Nevada Supreme Court, today the Attorney General's office)

Sixth from Carson to Curry (Ormsby House)

Eight feet of Curry Street (Ormsby House)

Sixth from Stewart to Fall (originally for Nevada National Bank, today the state Sedway Building)

Second, Third, Fourth, Fall, Plaza (for Legislative Building, Legislative Plaza and the new Supreme Court)

Ninth from Carson to Curry (Carson Station)

Tenth from Carson to Plaza (two office buildings and a restaurant)

Third, Fourth, Walsh, Anderson (parking lot)

Plaza and Spear (Carson Nugget)

Caroline (plaza for Nevada State Museum)

Valley from William to John (City Center strip center)

Plaza from Eighth to Ninth (Plaza Motel)

Pratt from Musser to Second (Carson City Courthouse)


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