Developers planning 4,700-unit project at Butler Ranch in southeast Reno | nnbw.com

Developers planning 4,700-unit project at Butler Ranch in southeast Reno

Kaleb M. Roedel | kroedel@nnbw.biz

In 2015, Newport Pacific Land, a development company based in Newport Beach, Calif., had its eye on a 980-acre stretch of land tucked in southeast Reno, the site of the former Butler Ranch.

"We saw the property and said, this is the best development piece in the city — bar none," said Christopher Bley, partner at Newport Pacific Land.

With that, the development company began drafting a proposal — one that not only responded to the greater Reno's housing shortage, but also the region's soaring rates.

"The median home prices in our area are outpacing the household median incomes, especially in the south portion (of Reno)," said principal planner Andy Durling of Wood Rodgers Inc. "What was identified as a glaring need: attainable housing for median-income families."

And so two years later, Newport Pacific Land is in the early stages of the approval process with the city of Reno for a project aimed to help meet that need. Its called Daybreak.

Specifically, developers are proposing 4,700 housing units, comprised of an array of single-family homes and townhomes as well as multifamily residential units planted across the 980-acre site. This, Durling said, equates to a ratio of roughly 4.8 dwelling units per acre.

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"Although," Bley said, "people love having the 6,000-square-foot lot — and that's the majority of the homes that are in southeast Reno — we wanted to build a community that has a little bit of everything —walkability, attainability — by keeping some of the pricing lower by doing the densification in some areas."

While the project's emphasis is a broader spectrum of attainable housing units, Durling noted that the Daybreak project would still have a "healthy amount" of single-family homes.

"Affordability has just gone away and we want to provide that 'missing middle,'" Bley said. "As developers, we looked at Reno and are obviously very bullish on the market and the economy. But, very often developers will come in and they just chase the market. That's not what we wanted to do."

With companies moving in from California and startups setting up shop like clockwork in Reno-Sparks, it's no secret that the market is in the middle of a growth spurt. A lack of housing, however, can stunt that growth.

Emphasizing this point, Durling said they've talked with Tesla and Panasonic. Both expressed having a hard time recruiting people because of the lack of attainable housing, he said.

Added Bley: "We think that the business community is certainly clamoring to have more housing."

Breaking through challenges

The project, however, does present challenges for the developers. Chief among them is the fact that a portion of the 980-acre site is on a FEMA-regulated floodplain. In fact, the area was severely flooded in 1997, 2005 and most recently in early 2017.

Consequently, the city of Reno requires the project to be prepared for a 117-year flood event.

"FEMA regulates to the 100-year floodplain, so we're held to a higher standard," Durling said. "So we have done a considerable amount of floodplain modeling in different scenarios to understand what the impacts to the floodplain are."

The city's ordinance currently requires developers to remove a shovel of dirt for every shovel of dirt put into the floodplain to mitigate the overall storage volume. Durling said Daybreak plans to go above the minimum one-to-one ratio and instead remove 1.25 shovels of dirt for every one added.

"Right now the floodplain is real wide and shallow," he said. "We're going to be narrowing it, but making it deeper, so the overall volume of available flood storage is actually going to increase."

Soil tests, Durling said, found traces of mercury above EPA regulations have seeped down 18 inches on four four-acre plots of the site. The contaminated dirt will be excavated and buried under two feet of clean soil, per the EPA's recommended mitigation measure, he added.

Notably, none of the areas showing contaminated soil are where housing units will be built.

"So we don't have to worry about a future homeowner going out and digging a pool and disturbing that (contaminated soil)," Durling said.

BOLSTERING WORKFORCE, CITY

While Daybreak is designed to fill a housing need, the project would also create a significant number of construction jobs.

"One of the issues Reno faces is a labor shortage for construction," Bley said. "Hopefully a project of this magnitude will start drawing a little more construction labor into our market.

Added Durling: "We lost a lot of those jobs during the recession. Not just those jobs, those people — they left the area. So a big project like this gives more certainty to attract more construction jobs, more laborers, back to the region."

In addition to housing, 44.7 acres of Daybreak are expected to be dedicated to commercial use. Roughly 326,000 square feet of commercial and office space is blueprinted for construction over the project's 10-year buildout.

Meanwhile, 61.1 acres of the project will be carved out for roadways and 309 acres slotted for open space. Durling said there would be a "robust" trails network within the development, as well.

He said land also would be set aside for an elementary school, a charter school and a potential high school campus.

All told, the developers' fiscal analysis found the project to provide a revenue surplus of more than $13 million to the city of Reno's general fund and a surplus of $22 million to the city's street fund over a 20-year period.

Moreover, Durling said Daybreak wouldn't require the city to extend its services, noting that the Reno Police Department and Reno Fire Department already serve the adjacent areas.

Additionally, Bley said since the project is truly infill, everything they need from a utilities standpoint is "at our doorstep." In other words, the water lines, sewer lines and roadways don't need to be extended to serve the residences.

Continued outreach

With a project of this size, Bley said they've done — and continued to do — a lot of outreach.

"We spent a lot of time on due diligence to get where we are today," Bley said. "We've taken in comments from all stakeholders — from neighborhoods to elected officials and consultants."

On Thursday, Feb. 8, the developers are holding a neighborhood meeting at 6 p.m. at the Grand Sierra Resort.

"We truly want to hear from everybody, because that's what got us to where we are today," Bley said.

Durling said the Daybreak development team is scheduled to meet with the Reno City Planning Commission at the end of March. If there are no major roadblocks throughout the approval process, they hope to break ground in early 2019.

DAYBREAK neighborhood MEETING

What: A meeting for developers to discuss with the public the proposed Daybreak project in southeast Reno.

When: 6 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 8

Where: Grand Sierra Resort, 2500 E. 2nd St., Reno, Nev.