After all the changes " result is a dynamic downtown design |

After all the changes " result is a dynamic downtown design

Jessica Groach

Change.Most architects expect to have their designs go through changes.

But what if the client is a city, and the site is so beloved that changes instigate public debate? Then you have the challenge that Sheehan Van Woert Bigotti Architecture faced with the old Mapes site at 10 N.Virginia Street.

“All architectural projects have their level of complexity; it’s just the nature of the process,” says Angela Bigotti-Chavez, principal architect of the Reno-based firm charged with the site’s design.

“This definitely had an overlay of complexity that’s not typical.

It had a lot to do with understanding what the public wanted, and being able to work in as many amenities as possible within the budget constraints that were set forth.”

After the Mapes’ demolition, the Reno City Council heard several proposals for the site’s redevelopment, and went with SVWB’s idea for a downtown recreational park and plaza.

The project now simply called 10 N.

Virginia would offer a park with a river view, a permanent downtown ice rink, and a performance venue for events such as Hot August Nights or Artown.

The original circular design included an amphitheater that during winter would be covered with a circular ice rink.

The concrete plaza space would include several pieces of permanent public art depicting Reno’s history.

Adjacent to the plaza on the east side of the site would sit a retail/mixed use building with a cantilevered roof.

But that changed in January of this year.

The City Council, in response to public concern, asked for a regulation-size ice rink.

The reason: hopes that the rink will generate profit as a professional sports arena.SVWB and its partner,Westlake Reed Leskosky Architects of Cleveland, Ohio,went back at the drawing board.

The 3,000-person grass amphitheater, designed by Lumos & Associates, Inc., remained part of the plan, although it changed in size and shape, as did the plaza and public art displays, to work alongside the new elliptical 80-foot by 180-foot regulation rink.

With the additions, the 1.02-acre site is now quite full, and calls for a 14,000-squarefoot retail/mixed use building.


developer Real Estate Affiliates has proposed five floors that include retail, restaurants, rink support facilities and professional offices.

The building is still in development.

Bigotti-Chavez says that the high-profile nature of the project created some unusual challenges.

“There were times when we were working really quickly to answer some questions, and some times where we were waiting to get in front of the Council.

So we didn’t have as much control over our schedule as we may normally have.

That posed some managerial issues that forced us to stay very fluid as a team.”

Along with the government aspect, came the emotional connection Reno’s citizens had to the Mapes.

“Some people wanted to see the Mapes building reconstructed,” she says.

“There were people who were such advocates of that building that there was a lot of residual inertia.

That passion didn’t just go away when the Mapes came down.

It’s a very important site, it’s a gem, and it calls for a place that’s going to be of highest and best use.”

On top of public comment and Council requests, the budget created more challenges.

The plaza design calls for an elliptical canopy mounted on concrete columns; it’s a complicated, unique idea, and its logistics and costs are still being evaluated.

It was necessary to develop the site in phases, which helps manage budgets and schedules.

Phase 1 encompasses site work, which includes all concrete, trees, grass, new handrails, lighting, in-slab refrigeration for the ice rink, and footings for the canopy.

The accepted contractor’s bid for Phase 1 came in at $2.63 million about $700,000 under budget.And while the canopy is in development, the plaza and ice rink will open, as originally planned, this November.

So is this a case of too many cooks in the kitchen? Is phased development frustrating? Sure it is, says Bigotti-Chavez.

But she insists that in this case, it’s the results that really matter.

“Every project has its own personality, and every owner has their own agenda.

But in the end we have a great design that everybody’s pleased with, and as architects we always try to focus on that.

If we could have had our way, could we have made this more streamlined? Absolutely.

But the Council had their responsibility to the public…and we were able to make it work.”


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