Bridging the gap from UNR to downtown
Another effort to transform Reno’s downtown is underway.
The Renossance Project aims to bridge the gap between the University of Nevada, Reno, and downtown by creating a University District out of the connecting area.
The goal is to overhaul and redevelop the blighted, northeast quadrant of downtown, filling it with mixed-use properties, from residential (including student housing) to restaurants and technology businesses.
“By changing the façade, cleaning it up and improving public safety we can bring more people into that part of town,” says Bruce Specter, owner of 3rd Rock Communications, a marketing and communications firm in Reno.
Specter, along with Ken Krater, president of MTK Ltd., a Reno-based development firm, has been spearheading the project.
Specter says a group of between 20 to 30 community stakeholders has been meeting since last December, initially to oppose the proposed margins tax and to find better ways to fund municipal projects.
“We need other options and one other option is reinventing ourselves,” says Specter. “Creating a university town, between businesses and UNR, Desert Research Institute and Truckee Meadows Community College.”
The plan’s initial phase would cover the area between Valley Road on the east and Center Street to the west, bordered on the south by Fifth Street and I-80 to the north. A second phase would extend south a few blocks to the Reno Aces ballpark.
The plot covers roughly the same area as the Tessera District, a special tax district long-planned for development.
Apple Inc. is reportedly plans an office at Evans Avenue and Fifth Street, inside both Tessera and the Renossance Project areas. The office, to support its data center east of Reno, was expected last year but Apple has yet to break ground and it’s unclear if the computer maker still plans to build downtown.
Specter says the project’s first action item is to convince the Reno City Council to develop a new master plan and create what he calls an innovation, free-trade zone in the area.
“The next step is to fill the council chambers to capacity with people to make sure the master plan gets on the agenda,” says Specter.
Specter has been meeting city officials in an effort to get their buy-in on the project and working with the Regional Alliance for Downtown. Last week he was planning to meet with officials from the Regional Transportation Commission as well as Gary Carano, chief executive officer of Eldorado Resorts Inc., in further outreach.
The group is holding a presentation and brainstorming meeting July 22 in Reno for invited participants.
Heather Ashbridge, who started with Nevada State Development Corporation in 2008, previously served in several roles with the organization, including assistant vice president and loan officer. She is based in NSDC’s Reno office.