The culmination of a years-long journey to revamp a dilapidated shopping center into Midtown’s premier retail destination is nigh. Work is nearing completion at Reno Public Market at Plumb Lane and Virginia Street. Developer Doug Wiele of Foothill Partners told NNBW in a recent interview that general contractor Truckee Meadows Construction should be off the jobsite by the end of June, with the food hall opening this summer. “It’s coming fast,” Wiele said. “It’s been a long road, made longer by the pandemic, but the community is finally getting a sense of what (this project) is about. You can see the structure of the food hall, and it’s really grand. The community is just loving what we are doing here. “It’s been a long time coming,” Wiele added. “It was three years thinking about and testing the market and rounding up capital, and now it’s three years and counting from the day we first bought the property and began building it. We came to change this old and tired property, and it’s gratifying to see the energy going on around us.”
The extensive renovation project comes with a $50 million price tag. Sprouts Farmers Market, Port of Subs, Cold Stone Creamery and CVS have already opened in new or renovated retail space at the former location of Shoppers Square and have enjoyed brisk sales, Wiele noted. Construction is all about choreography, Wiele said, and the Covid-19 pandemic roiled the workforce and wreaked havoc with scheduling at several points during the build process. “It’s been a nightmare,” Wiele said. “Every week it’s been, ‘How are we doing? What marks did we hit and which ones did we miss?’ You can’t take four or five guys out of a crew of 10 because they are all dependent upon each other. “On balance, we have done really well, but it’s been hard.” The food hall will be about 25,000 square feet, with an additional 30,000 square feet of retail space. Confirmed and prospective tenants include Wyld Market, a speakeasy, and small vendors who will occupy space in the food hall. That part of Reno Public Market has space for 22 vendors, and 18 are already filled. Wiele said the entire project is about 70 percent pre-leased. Food hall vendors will soon begin installing equipment and testing their operations, Wiele added. Patrons walking through the entrance will have their senses stimulated by the aroma of food wafting throughout the space, sound coming from a center stage or large LED wall, the hubbub of conversation and laughter, and striking visual colors. Reno Public Market in February hired Food Truck Friday founder Steve Schroeder to consult and help bring in local food vendors for the venue. “Food Truck Friday is in the top 10 percent of food truck events in the United States,” Wiele said. “It’s huge, and who knows better than him?” Schroeder told NNBW that the success of Food Truck Friday, which started with a handful of trucks at Idlewild Park and has since morphed into a premier event with dozens of trucks, bodes well for the Reno Public Market concept. For mobile food vendors, the food hall is the next logical progression from operating a food truck and opening a standalone brick and mortar location.
“This is the next step for them in their business,” he said. “It’s an amazing concept. Food Truck Friday put Reno on the food map. Now we get to have this food hall, which will double up on the fact that we are an amazing food town.” Most vendors will operate out of standard 10-foot by 30-foot spaces, Schroeder said. Vendors are in the midst of building out and personalizing their locations, he added. Over the course of the next six months, vendors will refine their concepts and test their menus. “Reno Public Market and the food hall will be an amazing experience,” Schroder said. “It will be one of those places that people just want to be at.” Fireten Hospitality of West Palm Beach, Fla., will serve as the operator and manager of the food hall. Fireten also will manage a bar concept that will be located in the center of the food hall, as well as the speakeasy. Reno Public Market, along with Reno Experience District to the south, will anchor future Midtown gentrification efforts and should also serve to bring a steady stream of consumers back to the corners of Plumb and Virginia – an area that consumers had largely abandoned when Park Lane Mall closed more than a decade ago. “Retail had left that corner, but in a sense that corner had left the community,” Wiele said. “We are finally catching up with what this community wants. We have created a significant destination and are bringing an attraction that’s profoundly important to this part of Reno.”