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Market leads West Street revitalization effort

Pat Patera

Food and festivities are key to revitalizing West Street, say Reno Redevelopment Agency officials. And they won a $350,000 grant from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to start by building West Street Market.

The ramshackle brick buildings at 148 West St. housing The Green Room, Liquid Lounge and G Spot qualified as blight, says

Mark Lewis, redevelopment administrator.

“These are quaint, wonderful historic buildings,” says Karen Craig, senior management analyst for the redevelopment agency. “We looked at functionality and what could be retained.”

With architectural drawings in hand, she says, “We started penciling in what would make a magical setting. When seeking tenants, the mix is everything.”

So to find the answer, the city conducted public polls and an online survey. The must-haves: fresh produce and ethnic foods.

Once completed, West Street Market will enclose 8,600 square feet with another 6,000 square feet of covered outdoor courtyard.

The outdoor portion is scheduled to come online in July and the indoor space in October.

With 17 tenants, it would create 140 jobs, says Lewis.

Spaces include 10 by 10 foot tents, kiosks in the aisle, and shops averaging 300 and 500 square feet plus one 900-square-foot cavern.

Lease rates run $2.75 per square foot plus maintenance fees. B.F. Management owns and leases the space.

City Manager Charles McNeely steered the project to West Street, says Craig, That street ranks high on the redevelopment list due to a convergence of river, residences, hospital campus and tourist draws nearby.

A study by Nevada Small Business Development Center showed 17,000 people work downtown; 10,000 of them non-casino employees who remain unfed on the job.

Those workers spend up to $3 million each year on lunches. Add to that a hungry horde of 5 million visitors.

“Food is the heart of every great city,” said Jennifer Bushman, a project consultant, told the Reno City Council last week.

Last summer, says Lewis, 10 farmers’ markets drew 6,000 people. At West Street Market, she adds, festivities will accompany the food.

Wednesday’s Eco Market, managed by EcoNet, will involve a different educational theme bikes, babies, pets, garden, beauty, and ecotourism each week.

Friday’s artists and chefs market, managed by the Holland Project, will revolve around themes such as a pre-Artown party.

Saturday morning’s farmer’s market, with participating chefs, will flow into the street.

“Kid activities drive sales of food by parents,” says Bushman of the planned Learn at Lunch programs. “We’re spending a lot of time looking at programming so that we keep the market alive all year round.”

Three Reno firms contracted on the project. Cathexes LLC is architect. Advance Installations Inc. gutted the buildings while Gabbart & Woods handled structural engineering.

Redevelopment staff identified all of West Street as a blighted area, says Jessica Jones, economic development manager. “We want pedestrians to feel safe” walking along the half-mile corridor between St. Mary’s hospital and West Street Plaza, she says.

That includes residents at The Montage, The Belevedere, Terraces at the Riverwalk and The Plaza Resort Club.

The King’s Inn remodel has been put on hold, she adds.

And across from King’s Inn, a pocket of blight remains. The former Reno Gospel Mission, owned by the city, stands vacant, as does a motel owned by the Eldorado casino. But Third Street Blues Club is in business.

It took federal grant money to build West Street Market, says Craig, because private developers are stymied by the problem of assembling land parcels downtown. Even so, the financials were complicated. But, she adds, James Graham, economic development manager, made it work.

However, private investment is drawn to the river district, says Jones.

Truckee River Eats ‘n Treats opened on the Riverwalk, Red Martini nightclub on Commercial Row, Vajra Yogic Lounge in Arlington Towers and Port of Subs is staking out a spot on First Street.