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Creative types work to boost downtown

Anne Knowles

Mark Wetjen was taking part in an informal meeting of local luminaries who are working to improve Reno when, in no uncertain terms, he was told to stop complaining about the city’s downtown and do something about it.

“I took it as a challenge,” said the attorney with Lionel Sawyer & Collins.

So Wetjen and Stacey Lomer, an architect with Cathexes and another attendee at the meeting, took action and formed what they’re calling the Reno Project.

The project is working to ensure that Reno becomes a great place to work and live for the so-called creative class – engineers, artists, and entrepreneurs.

It’s currently made up of a dozen graphic designers, marketing consultants and businesspeople, who are committed to making “Reno a vibrant and stimulating place …,” according to the group’s mission statement.

The group, launched in May, is now trying to determine how to accomplish that.

“We’re finding out what people are passionate about,” said Lomer.

So far, the project knows it wants to focus on downtown redevelopment, the train trench project and the Virginia Street bridge, which they hope to save from being torn down.

The project spoke up during a recent Reno City Council meeting when the redevelopment agency discussed expanding its sphere of influence.

The project is concerned that enlarging redevelopment’s geographic area will dilute the agency’s efforts downtown.

The group also hopes to work with local business interests and economic developers, such as the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada, that have as much interest in developing Reno as the project does.

First, though, the group hopes to organize itself and recruit new members.

“The creative class is not prone to being organized,” said Wetjen.

“It’s not in our nature.”