Extreme makeover

Downtown Carson City gets a new look this week when Envision Carson City shows a three-dimensional, big-screen virtual tour of the future downtown.

The digital video is the result of 18 months of public meetings, 36 hours of community workshops, 1,000 citizen voices and 30,000 individual comments.

It shows from 6 - 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday at the Brewery Arts Center Grand Ballroom, 449 W. King Street.

The interactive display gives viewers the ability to see Carson Street from Musser to Williams at the speed of a slow moving automobile, says Joe McCarthy, economic development and redevelopment manager.

And what they'll see is not the current wide streets and narrow sidewalks. Rather, two traffic lanes flow between expansive pedestrian walkways and sprawling plazas.

The city commissioned the study and simulation by Colorado-based firms Winston Associates and Clarion Associates. Fees for total consulting services were $70,000 says McCarthy.

Was it worth it?

"We are already getting interest from master plan developers nationwide," says McCarthy. The plans put a focus on mixed use and affordable housing.

That residential component is vital, because the ultimate goal of the planning is to create not just a downtown shopping district, but a neighborhood, says McCarthy.

But first, the new Highway I-580 bypass must accommodate the commuter traffic that races along Carson Street, says Lee Plemel, principal planner for Carson City and project manager for the city-wide master plan process.

"People in Carson City really identify with the downtown," says Plemel. "They think it's something the city should be proud of."

The people also said growth should be focused downtown. They didn't want houses to sprawl across the desert or hike up the hillsides.

The long-term plan also calls for the removal of Washington Street to make an emergency floodway, an urban stream, says Plemel.

When floodwaters from the Ash Canyon drainage inundated Carson Street this winter, it became apparent that drainage improvements were needed. So why not make an amenity of it? Plemel asks.

But the most exciting part of the plan, he adds, is to have a place where people will want to go, get out of the car and walk around.

For now, however, people will have to be satisfied with a virtual walkabout.

Chase Mullen, GIS/visual specialist at Winston Associates in Boulder, used SketchUp, 3D Studio Max and custom software to build the presentation, which required about 700 man hours to create.

The video runs less than three minutes.

But it's also an interactive model. People can sit at computers to stroll up and down Carson Street. Or drive by in a car. Or cruise it from the rooftops.

"People respond much better to these computer-generated models because it's easier to understand," says Mullen.

He adds, "Carson City planning staff are by far the most enthusiastic, excited people we've ever worked with."

Envision Carson City is a community-wide effort led by McCarthy; Plemel; Andy Burnham, public works director; Walt Sullivan, community development director; Roger Moellendorf, parks and recreation director; Vern Krahn, park planner; and Juan Guzman, property manager, all of whom will be on hand to answer questions during the showings.


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