Little by little, change heads downtown

Work is underway to update this building at 10 State Street.

Work is underway to update this building at 10 State Street.

Construction is underway in the heart of Downtown Reno. From erecting the new Virginia Street bridge, to demolition of surrounding buildings, redevelopment continues to tackle the blight of deserted motels and empty liquor stores.

Developers are making strides in various projects in the heart of the Biggest Little City.

The Virginia Street Bridge is in the final stages of construction and is set to open in April. It will replace the old 110-year-old bridge at a cost of $18.2 million to the city.

Another project entering the final stages of development is the former Kings Inn structure.

The building has a different look from its once decaying exterior as it transforms into upscale apartments. The Third Street Flats would support 94 units and is scheduled to open this summer. The former hotel and casino has been one of the biggest eyesores in the downtown area since the business folded 30 years ago.

Other downtown revitalization efforts began this month at the old Hudson building on Center Street near another recently opened business space, The Basement, located beneath the historic U.S. Post Office from 1933.

The structure is getting sandblasted on the exterior brick wall revealing that underneath the old brown paint the brick is still in good condition. Demolition on the inside of the building is almost complete. Developer Brian Egan said that once the space has been renovated, he plans to make the 17,000 square-foot building available for high-end retail.

“By the time all of the work is done, it will be showcased as the anchor of the block,” Eagan said. “There are a couple of retailers looking in the downtown area for good retail space, and I want to have it prepped for this year to make something happen.”

The Center Lodge, located just across the street from the Hudson building, was recently purchased by Allyson and Victor Rameker, owners of Desert Wind Homes. Eagan was involved with the deal of the dilapidated building and says that renovation of the property will soon be underway.

10 State Street, an office building near the Hudson building project, is being renovated as well. Construction workers are tearing down the exterior stone on the first floor of the building, adding to the construction work being performed on the block.

With all the new developments around the downtown area, there have also been businesses that have shut down operations and blight continues to exist throughout the area.

The Knitting Factory Concert hall has closed along with the Siena Casino, the El Cortez lounge and Reno Provisions. There are also multiple empty storefronts along Virginia Street, and places like the Regional Transportation Commission’s old CitiCenter are not being fully utilized.

The city bought the land that once served as downtown’s main bus station in 2008 for more than $6 million. The city intended to hand it over to the developers of the Aces Ballpark to redevelop the property. However, the project never occurred and the land is worth considerably less than what the city paid for. It is estimated that the property is now worth $2 million.

Currently, part of the building houses a Reno Police Department substation, but there are no plans for any major redevelopment of the facility in the near future.

There has also been talk about bringing in a streetcar rail system spanning from downtown through Midtown. The Reno Streetcar Coalition is leading the effort to adopt a streetcar rail system but the project is facing roadblocks.

RTC Public Information Officer Joe Harrington said that there needs to be an investment of private dollars if the project is to move forward because it would be a prohibitively expensive project for the RTC to handle alone. Because there is an abundance of competing needs when it comes to public transit in the region, the RTC is focusing on expanding the current bus service.

Despite some project setbacks, blight that continues to plague some areas and the folding of some operations, local business leaders see downtown revitalization efforts moving in the right direction little by little.

Mike Kazmierski, president and CEO of the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, said that the city is working to address issues facing downtown. He says that with more code enforcement and more involvement from community leaders, it will help combat the scourge that plagues some parts of downtown.

He added that by focusing on the core of downtown between the University of Nevada, Reno and the Truckee River, the upgrades from redevelopment will help to attract families and shake the area’s reputation as a place exclusively aimed towards gamblers.

“A new Reno requires a new downtown and we are on track to getting there,” Kazmierski, said. “In addition to code enforcement and city engagement, business investments are important as we see downtown move forward. It will help modernize the area in the long term but it requires a lot of players to get involved as efforts continue.”


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