Washoe land may be site of $26 million retail project

The Washoe Tribe has plans to lease 70 acres of land near Sunridge Golf Course for a $26 million retail project that will include two "big box" stores, two restaurants, bank, gas station, car wash and convenience store.

"We're in the process of prospecting for retail activities," said Brian Wallace, Washoe tribal chairman. "We have explored interests throughout the West who have experience and partnerships with the tribe. We're working with a group from Texas and Arizona who are interested in the site. "We are very hopeful that the potential of the site will be realized."

Wallace said the project would be a combination of Indian-owned and financed businesses as well as non-tribal enterprises.

"We're negotiating agreements on a development mixture," Wallace said. "Most will be tribally owned and financed projects. We're also developing joint venture partnerships and leasing options."

The project is being managed by the Washoe Development Enterprises, a tribal-owned and operated corporation under the direction of Kurt Weissheimer, a retired Amtrak executive who was hired at the beginning of the year.

"We'll be starting the basic design in a week or two," Weissheimer said. "We hope to have a restaurant and one or two large volume retail stores, a convenience store, fastfood restaurant, car wash and gas station. We hope to have the convenience store open by October."

Weissheimer said he couldn't identify the list of potential tenants for the Silverado site until negotiations are complete, but he and Wallace both said the site represents the tribe's efforts to expand economically.

"We're continually setting the bar higher," Wallace said. "The expectations of the tribal members are up and it puts pressure on us to perform."

Wallace said the tribe had worked well with its neighbors in the adjacent Sunridge housing and commercial development. With Target and Home Depot stores north and west of the site, the Washoe project will firmly anchor the North County as a regional shopping area.

The Washoe site was also looked at by Costco, Weissheimer said. By the time representatives contacted him, Weissheimer said, they had heard the allegations that the tribe is tough to deal with

"Maybe I am paranoid," Weissheimer said, "but people come in from out of town and they go talk to people at the county and they are told the tribe is difficult to deal with, that there are all kinds of problems with land ownership, that there will be local opposition.

"None of this is true. Even if our property isn't technically part of the county, it's still part of the area, and development should be encouraged. If somebody comes into the area, they should be shown everything that is available. That means more jobs, more income for everybody."

Weissheimer said the tribe owns five miles of property along Highway 395.

"When you consider the length of the property along Highway 395, we're going to have a lot to say about its appearance. We will make prudent decisions. The tribe is extremely concerned about the environment.

"They view themselves as the ancestral protectors of the land. It angers me when the county talks about a planning process and they ignore us."

Weissheimer's years as Amtrak's director of real estate acquisition took him all over the country. Before that he worked as an attorney and administrator for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development.

From his office in Dresslerville, Weissheimer put his contacts to work to find people interested in the 71-acre Silverado site.

"I use the telephone," he said. "I know a lot of people from when I was with Amtrak. Many people have come out for a look. They don't need much of an excuse. It's a great place.

"We can offer a pretty nice package. There are federal tax advantages working with the tribe, such as accelerated depreciation.

"We know what we have. We know exactly where we're going. It's fortunate that the potential value of our properties is going up," Weissheimer said.

The Washoe Tribe will stay out of gaming, Weissheimer said.

"The Tribe decided to be one of the non-gaming tribes for our properties in California," he said. "Maybe we'll have some slot machines in our businesses.

"This decision reflects the conservatism that the tribe has. We prefer to make money in the traditional way. Plus, you don't automatically make a billion dollars when you open a casino."


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