South Creek Center buildings almost finished after 6 years |

South Creek Center buildings almost finished after 6 years

John Seelmeyer

When McKenzie Properties started construction on 60,000 square feet of retail space in the South Creek Center, nobody figured the company would need six years to bring it to completion.

But then, not many projects that broke ground in October 2008 — almost precisely the moment that the economy tanked — survived at all.

Reno-based McKenzie Properties is wrapping up the last of nine buildings in the neighborhood center at South Virginia and Foothill Road in South Reno. Only one 2,000-square-foot space remains for lease, says Todd McKenzie, a principal in the family-owned development and construction company.

It’s been a long haul, and the challenges began even before the onset of the financial crisis.

When McKenzie Properties purchased the land in 2005 and 2006, the property was covered by a restriction dating from the end of World War II that barred commercial development.

Company officials worked closely with the neighbors and won their approval to change the covenant to allow the project to move forward. A Tahoe-flavored design by Truckee architect Dale Cox helped win them over.

But just as McKenzie crews began moving dirt, the lending windows at most financial institutions slammed shut — and they slammed particularly hard on speculative retail projects in the Reno market.

So the company took a methodical approach, relying on its own resources. It built one building at a time, leased it up, got permanent financing in place and then moved on to the next building.

Nearly 30 tenants, nearly all of them locally owned businesses, have leased space in South Creek.

Leasing activity, McKenzie says, took a while to gain momentum.

The company had a strong story to tell about the location — lots of population, good neighborhood income, lots of daytime workers — but small retailers were spooked as the recession unfolded.

“The restaurants got the concept right away,” McKenzie says.

Yosh’s Unique Deli, Squeeze In, Los Compadres and South Creek Pizza are among the eateries that have located in the center.

Other retailers began seeing the possibilities, particularly as additional buildings arose, and McKenzie Properties today has a waiting list for space. In fact, McKenzie says he’s turned away dozens of tenants who didn’t fit the development company’s vision for the center.

The pedestrian-friendly design featuring numerous patios and spots for social interactions has proven critical to the center’s success, McKenzie says. And churn among retailers has been minimal.

“The center is doing what it’s supposed to do,” he says. “It’s drawing people to the site.”