Jones Vargas move: A game-changer?

Matt White doesn't think that the move of Jones Vargas to 300 E. Second St. next spring will tip the balance of gravity in the downtown area eastward.

But White, the president of Basin Street Properties, which leased 25,000 square feet of its building to Jones Vargas, is convinced the big law firm's decision to locate across the street from the Reno Aces baseball stadium is more than just another real estate transaction.

"It expands the downtown footprint to include the baseball district," White says.

Jones Vargas currently is located in the Museum Tower building at 100 W. Liberty St.

Michael Alonso, a shareholder in Jones Vargas, says the firm's partners expect that the new location will be on the cutting edge of downtown redevelopment, much as its current location was on the edge when the firm moved in about a dozen years ago.

"When we first moved to this building, California Street wasn't what it is today," he says.

The development of the ballpark and the neighboring Freight House District on the eastern edge of downtown opened Jones Vargas partners to the possibility of moving to 300 E. Second.

"We wouldn't have made this move a couple of years ago," Alonso says.

The company leased the entire top floor of the building, which will be renamed "Jones Vargas Center." Scott Shanks and Dominic Brunetti of NAI Alliance represented Jones Vargas in the lease negotiations.

Tim Ruffin of Colliers International, which handles leasing in the Museum Tower building, said several law firms already have expressed interest in leasing the space to be vacated by Jones Vargas.

He noted that the move of Jones Vargas to 300 E. Second St. marks the first time that a high-profile company has relocated in the building, which originally was developed as a parking garage for Harrah's. Four stories of office space were added to house the gaming company's corporate offices.

"It's a big unknown," says Ruffin. "It could be a brilliant move. Only time will tell."

White said the Jones Vargas lease helps to validate the strategy of Basin Street Properties, which has invested more than $4 million in the building since the company acquired it in late 2007.

"Our whole business plan was to reposition the building from what it was a dilapidated Class C property," White says.

The company will be undertaking extensive improvements to the 15th floor in preparation for the Jones Vargas move.

Alonso says the law firm began searching more than a year ago for office space that will allow it to operate more efficiently. It occupies space on two floors of Museum Tower and hoped to find space on a single floor.

The firm wanted to stay downtown, largely because it's close to federal and state courthouses.

Jones Vargas signed a 10-year lease on the office space.

Along with the building at 300 E. Second St., Basin Street Properties' downtown holdings include the Wells Fargo building at 200 S. Virginia and the Bank of America building at 50 W. Liberty. Together, the three buildings total over a half-million square feet.

Basin Street's corporate headquarters is at 300 E. Second St.

White says the company continues to pursue plans to develop a hotel to be branded as a Courtyard by Marriott on property immediately east of the building on Second Street. Those plans have been stalled by the credit crunch.


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