A Downtown eyesore is in the midst of a rebirth.
The Kings Inn, boarded up for 30 years, is now in the hands of Bentar Development, headed by Las Vegas developer Amador “Chi Chi” Bengochea, and Reno-based Basin Street Properties.
Bentar closed on the property a year ago. Through much of 2015, the derelict hotel has been dismantled nearly to its skeleton.
“It was a mess,” Parr Tolles, president of Basin Street, said in a phone interview. “It took a lot of vision on Chi Chi‘s part just to get it cleaned up.”
“There was just a lot we had to do; (a lot of) asbestos removal,” Bengochea said.
“We’re starting from scratch. That’s the exciting part,” he said of the reconstruction now underway.
Windows and roofing have arrived. Once installed, interior work can begin.
Last week Bentar and Basin Street released an artists rendering and details of the sleek new apartment complex, the 3rd Street Flats.
The vision for the site at West and 3rd streets, on the block between the Sands Regency and the Eldorado parking garage, calls for an eight-story, 94-unit upscale apartment with one and two bedroom units.
Slated to open in the summer of 2016, it will also feature a sky pool and sun deck on the third level, a fitness studio, secure underground parking and the pet friendly amenities of a bark park and dog washing station. Additionally, the complex will have a fireside roof deck and barbeque area, panoramic views, a social lounge, on-site storage and bike amenities, and onsite property management.
Apartments will feature open concept floor plans with contemporary finishes including high-end appliances, custom kitchen islands with European cabinetry, quartz surface countertops, pendant lighting, plank flooring and ceramic tile in baths.
The ground floor includes approximately 9,000 square feet of retail space.
“We want to create something that Reno hasn’t seen before,” Tolles said of the upscale apartments in contrast to the existing Downtown condominium complexes.
He said it’s designed with the young professional or graduate student in mind with amenities that they appreciate.
Besides what’s available on premises, the 3rd Street Flats are a short walk to entertainment venues including Whitney Peak Hotel’s Cargo Concert Hall, Nevada Museum of Art, Silver Legacy, Eldorado, ReTRAC Plaza and Aces Ballpark, and all the fine dining in the neighborhood.
Bengochea estimated the total project costs will be $10 million when complete.
The vision for what’s coming is a far cry from what the site has looked like for nearly three decades.
The Kings Inn has been a sore spot for city personnel and neighboring businesses.
Originally constructed in 1974, the hotel operated for only 12 years before closing in 1986 due to code violations.
Since then, according to the city’s Community Development Department, it has gone through at least two bankruptcies, plus probate.
Another developer received approval in 2006 for a 130-unit condominium project that included adding additional floors. The Great Recession put an end to that dream and the property’s downward spiral continued.
Then it caught the eye of Bengochea. While visiting Reno-Tahoe, he asked a friend what was going on with the building.
“It looked like a solid building,” Bengochea said in a phone interview. “It would be a challenge (to clean up) but it did seem to be worth preserving. The city of Reno wanted to level it.”
Former Mayor Bob Cashell had said he wanted to personally take a bulldozer to it and made getting rid of the problem site a priority during his term.
Bentar closed on the property at the very end of Cashell’s term in office. It was left to current Mayor Hillary Schieve and the council and staff to shepherd the new development plan through the permitting process.
Both Tolles and Bengochea noted how helpful city staff has been to work with on the project.
“The city’s been great to work with,” Tolles said. “They’re as excited about this project as we are.”
Bentar partnered with Basin Street because of the firm’s familiarity with multi-family developments and contacts in Reno.
“A friend of mine referred them to me and said they were committed to Downtown,” Bengochea said. “I met Mr. White (CEO of Basin Street) and we had a great conversation and he enlightened me on his vision and commitment to Downtown Reno. They know what they’re doing in Reno and have local relationships.”
“Our regional expertise and resources are a great fit with Bentar’s experience and vision,” Matt White said in a press release. “We make a good team and we’re pleased with the results thus far. And the timing is right for these upscale apartments, with a projected 50,000 new jobs coming to Reno by 2020.”
“The most important thing is that we believe in what’s going to happen in Downtown Reno and we want to be a part of that Renaissance,” Bengochea said.
And what’s going on now in the city, makes all the difference in taking on a project of this size.
“As developers, we’re always taking the temperature of the economy and the temperature of the area,” Tolles said. “I can’t think of another time that’s as good for this project. The stars are aligned. The timing is just perfect.”
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