Sweet 16: That’s what Carson City has in mind for commerce

Commerce in Nevada’s capital city this year should fare well, quite well in the view of some prognosticators.

Discussions with the likes of Steve Neighbors at the Hop and Mae Adams Foundation, City Manager Nick Marano, Ronni Hannaman at the Chamber of Commerce and others in Carson City point to a business boon, if not a boom.

“We’ve had some wins and we’ve had some losses,” said Hannaman about city commerce emerging from the recession. But despite claiming her crystal ball is cloudy for 2016, she added, “it’s going to be a great year.”

How soon gains are visible with additional clarity depends in part on development’s pace. Commerce also must cope with significant changes, including downtown.

Neighbors, head of the Adams foundation, is changing his approach to the old Citibank property revitalization, upping his game on the Capitol Mall North project and building out the Adams Hub.

Marano, as city manager, has his Public Works Department spearheading local government’s streetscape facelift to help rejuvenate downtown.

That’s on schedule and part of a bid for commercial upgrades, but moves by Neighbors’ foundation, which controls much downtown property, as well as others in the private sector remains key.

Neighbors wants to jump start preparatory work on Capitol Mall North.

“We kind of parked it,” Neighbors said of the ambitious mixed use mall plan targeted for just east of the Carson Nugget casino between Carson and Stewart streets. He now says such curbside status exited with 2015.

“Literally,” he said, “I’ve blocked out three weeks in January” to work on progress regarding the multi-faceted project that originally envisioned a hotel, retail, office and conference space, as well as parking, a plaza and auditorium.

Both that mall plan and the Citibank building site, to the south and west on Telegraph Square along Curry Street, may require more time than originally foreseen. But they’re prominent in the 2016 mix and beyond.

“My objective,” said Neighbors, “always has been to bring in small conventions.” He said hotel rooms, a plaza and an auditorium are crucial. The mall‘s special use permit was approved last year, but construction has yet to start.

As for the west side Citibank structure, now gutted, rehabilitation was delayed because Neighbors and his advisers decided the old bank’s shell can’t be used in adding a third floor for apartments.

“We’ll tear it down to the foundation and then check the foundation,” said Neighbors. “That’s the way we’re going to approach the building.”

He said trying to build higher, with the existing two levels for retail/offices and the proposed third floor for apartments, would prove expensive yet wouldn’t bring quality, 21st century safety standards. Ten apartments are envisioned.

Neighbors, however, said he still hopes a new Telegraph Square structure will be under way there this spring or soon after that.

Miya MacKenzie, who along with Neighbors is a foundation spokesperson, said the Adams Hub business incubator already renovated and open is targeted this year for a 10-office second level build-out, and more, to accommodate additional startups.

The second floor renovation is nearing completion and the vacant space behind the Hub at 177 W. Proctor St., also is undergoing changes. A door will be knocked out at the rear of the Hub, connecting it to the one-story space to the west.

Eventually another floor could be added, said Kat Therres, Hub client services administrator, and a roof plaza is being considered. Both would come later.

“We’re very pleased with how our first year has gone,” MacKenzie said, noting the business incubator has nine client firms with at least 10 more possible. Neighbors agreed, praising support for the hub on North Carson Street across from City Hall.

During 2015, another foundation initiative updated the brewery just north of the incubator hub. Lake Tahoe Brewing Co., a beer and bistro firm, opened in that structure at 302 N. Carson St. after interior and exterior work finished.

Among other 2015 downtown advances were Shaheen Beauchamp Builders, LLC, moving downtown and the opening of the Mystique Restaurant in the same building at 318 N. Carson St.

In addition, Dean DiLullo has taken over the Carson Nugget casino at 507 N. Carson St., reconfigured gaming floor operations and added the Alatte Coffee & Wine Bar there. The foundation still owns the property, but DiLullo is casino CEO.

Another downtown change may convert the closed two-story Horseshoe Club casino at 402 N. Carson St. into retail, office and apartment space. The Harvest Hub co-op grocery and juice bar board intends to consider locating in space on the main level.

Marano and city government, meanwhile, are slated this year to upgrade Carson Street from 5th Street on the south to William Street on the north.

The public sector project will widen sidewalks and change to one lane north, one lane south for vehicles with a center turn lane, plus add bicycle lanes.

The aim is to enhance the main drag’s foot traffic. street life and business.

The project — expected to be done by Q & D Construction — also will add a Bob McFadden Plaza on a closed block of West 3rd Street just off South Carson Street. Plaza attractions will include a water feature and performing arts stage.

Marano vows the changes will be done by autumn before the Nevada Day Parade.

The project’s potential for aiding downtown commerce still sparks opposition from some, questions and suggestions from others about whether and how it will do the trick to revive the city’s downtown corridor.

Hannaman, Chamber of Commerce executive director, said for example it must go beyond just widening sidewalks and changing the corridor’s streetscape.

“It has to become an experience, a place to want to go for a variety of reasons,” she said. “As with any remodeling project, there needs to be one strong vision and, as I see it, the vision is not there.”

She made a case for continuing to emphasize the city’s historic features as a major part of community charm in vying for such a unified vision.

Commerce, however, isn‘t by any means confined to downtown and 2016 is likely to bring a resurgence of development along with a continuing revival in real estate.

Hannaman said new homes and upscale apartments are needed. Both appear to be on the way.

Along with Neighbors’ downtown apartment prospects and a 90-unit multi-family project near Silver Oak Golf Course already approved by city government, the start of a 424-lot subdivision called Schulz Ranch is anticipated.

Community Development Director Lee Plemel said Lennar Homes is expected to start building single-family houses there this year on south Carson City land being readied in the vicinity of Racetrack Road. The first phase calls for 100 lots.

In addition, the planning process could soon begin for a mixed-use development on former Lompa Ranch land in east Carson City.

Plemel said a submission to city planners may come during January for possible action in February by the Planning Commission on Lompa Ranch land north of East 5th street.

If such a project eventually develops for part or all of the more than 400 acres, it could include houses, and apartments, as well as commercial space. The city manager knows it’s possible.

“Potentially,” said Marano without revealing specifics, “there is a lot of new development coming.”

Prospects for light Industry are less clear, but if such commercial space also is built in the city it would be a boon. In part, city manufacturing prospects are slowed by lack of appropriate space to lure new industry.

“The concern is, Carson City was the manufacturing center of the state for the last 20 years,” said Kris Holt of Nevada Business Connections.

“The numbers are declining,” he said. “We haven’t turned a shovel for a manufacturing project in the last five years.”

He said recent area industry interest has been first in Douglas County to the south and secondly in Lyon County to the east, but he did note 17 manufacturers are reportedly expanding and seven new operations are coming into the region.

In Storey County to the northeast, the Tahoe-Reno Industrial Center (TRIC) is a booming beacon helping to spark industry interest for Northern Nevada. The TRIC has 170 firms, most notably Tesla/Panasonic and SWITCH.

Realtors and builders say 2015 was a good year for them and they look ahead to a better 2016.

“It’s going to be robust,” said Bob Fredlund of Coldwell Banker Select Real Estate, predicting this year could outpace a solid 2015. He said last year was good for him in both residential and commercial business.

Rob Joiner and Keith Howell of Nevada Premier Commercial real estate said there was an increase in 2015 of investors seeking realty opportunities rather than looking toward the stock market.

“Another encouraging factor is the resurgence of single- and multi-family home construction throughout Northern Nevada,” said Joiner. He and Howell said demand for retail, office and other commercial real estate follows more home development.

“I’m very bullish on 2016,” said Andie Wilson, who with her partner Brad Bonkowski has the Carson City NAI Alliance office. The commercial broker called 2015 solid and she projected 2016 “should be very good.”

Construction is the other aspect of the realty/building equation.

“From a construction industry perspective,” said Aaron West of the Nevada Builders Alliance, “my residential guys are having a hard time keeping up.” That confirmed the Joiner-Howell comments on regional housing growth.

West, whose statewide office is in Carson City, projected 50 percent growth in construction this year on both the residential and commercial sides.

Tom Metcalf of Metcalf Builders, Inc., agreed matters are brewing in building.

“I think 2016 is looking up,” the Carson City builder said, noting “2015 was definitely better than the year before.”

Some retailers also reported a solid 2015 and look forward to another good year.

“You know, 2015 was a great year for us,” said Stan Jones of The Purple Avocado gift store at 904 N. Curry St. Predicting additional upside, he said during December the holiday season was outstanding.

“I think the economy is picking up,” said Jones, a former board president with the local Chamber of Commerce. “I think Carson City is moving in the right direction.”

Katy Crabtree, a Carson High School graduate who now manages the Sportsman’s Warehouse outfitter outlet in Carson Mall here, had a similar take regarding the first full year of the outlet’s operations in 2015 here.

Projecting a good 2016 even before 2015 ended, she said many were in the store for holiday shopping. “It is a little crazy,” she said then, “but it is the season.”

Carson Mall rebounded with anchors Sportsman’s Warehouse and Beall’s, an apparel store, on board for all of 2015 after opening the previous year. Tahoe Ridge Winery/Restaurant opened last year in a nearby building at 1105 S. Carson St.

Carrington Co. of California, which owns the mall and the Tahoe Ridge structure, also purchased the former Copeland Lumber Yard nearby last year. It’s just behind Old Red’s 395 Grill near Stewart Street and not far from Tahoe Ridge.

Gabe Hagemann, Carrington Co. managing director, said there are no definitive plans yet for the old lumber yard but added after a great two years at the mall, he sees a fine 2016 as it begins.

He said, for example, he’s in negotiations with two known national firms not currently represented in Carson City to open outlets in the mall, but can’t as yet divulge the names.

In that same area, additionally, across Carson Street to the west a Black Bear Diner intends this year to open at Max Casino/Wyndham Garden Hotel, 900 S. Carson St..

Gaming in Carson City and the area did well during 2015, with good times potentially continuing this year, according to data and an interview.

State data show there were only two months in the first 11 of 2015 in which gaming receipts decreased at Carson and Eagle Valleys’ casinos, and for that period the area was up 4.3 percent overall with just a month of reporting to go.

Jonathan Boulware, general manager of Carson City’s Gold Dust West, said his casino and resort did well last year and he looks ahead to more of the same. “We had a really good year,” he said, adding trends look solid.

He said the gaming win is important for casinos, but just as significant from his viewpoint is gambling volume and that was up during 2015 as well.

Boulware, also chairman of the Visitors Bureau board, and Joel Dunn, bureau director, say lodging traffic is strong, room tax revenues are up and the bureau is increasing events that attract tourists or recreation enthusiasts.

Dunn cited as an example Epic Rides, a mountain biking event lured here for June of this year.

“I see the Epic Rides as not only an event re-branding us,” he said, but one that can “change the culture of Carson City. He also was happy the MAC (multi-athletic center) facility now is open for weekend events in colder months.

Sales of vehicles, another Carson City plus last year, should continue apace. During 2015, vehicle sales helped bolster reports on city sales tax receipts month after month.

The latest such report, covering October of 2015, showed a 9.4 percent hike in car sales to nearly $22 million.

Dana Whaley, manager at Carson City Toyota Scion, said that Toyota dealership during 2015 “had an increase in all departments. They’re projecting the same kind of numbers for 2016.”

In addition, last year brought conversion of the former location of that dealership, which used to be at the northeast corner of South Carson and Koontz streets, into a high end pre-owned vehicle dealership.

The Carson Car Center will register its first full year of sales there during 2016.

The former Crafts Market property at 2750 S. Carson St. sold late last year for $2.3 million. The more than four acres is south of the current Toyota Scion location and just north of the Honda dealership.

It went to interests associated with The Pedder Auto Group, which has several southern California car dealerships. Another dealership here appears possible, perhaps featuring Nissan vehicles now absent from the local new car lineup.

United Federal Credit Union began building a branch at East William and State streets just north of Mills Park last year and is expected to open later in 2016.

Also possible in 2016 are the openings of two medical marijuana dispensaries, as well as several cultivation and production facilities, which gained city approval last year for their sites in approved zoning areas.

Among the smaller 2015 business entries were a pair of wine/paint outlets — Mona Lisa and Wine at 3821 D Carson St. and Van Gogh & Vino, 1087 S. Carson St.

Hannaman mentioned those two 2015 additions, but also voiced disappointments, not the least of which was the multiple-years Ormsby House renovation at South Carson and West 5th streets hasn’t yet resulted in it opening.

Attempts to reach Don Lehr, co-owner of the unopened Ormsby House and the opened Ormsby Club behind the 10-story hotel, were unsuccessful.

Hannaman joined Neighbors in indicating lodging, business breakout rooms and conference space enhance chances of luring conferences to Carson City.

“We’ve long needed larger spaces to meet in order to attract more visitors to our community,” she said, “and prevent some of our locals from holding meetings in Reno.”


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