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Reno's urban landscape is changing fast.

All over town, but particularly in downtown and Midtown, developers started dropping millions of dollars on new projects in 2016. In many interviews throughout the year, developers said it only takes a few large early adopters to spur others to join them in changing a neighborhood.

At the end of 2015, the RGJ looked into some of the most blighted and vacant buildings in the city core. By the end of this year, many of those buildings were either demolished or in the process of redevelopment.

For example, the former Stained Glass Pub on Fourth Street stood as an example of post-recession blight until it sold for $700,000 last month, according to Washoe County records. Almost one year before, the real estate broker said it was only worth about $150,000.

The Reno City Council and city planners in 2016 also received feedback from multiple organizations — the Urban Land Institute, Progressive Urban Management Associates and Economic and Planning Associates — to improve its master plan, zoning and city planning methods. Combine that with the Regional Transportation Commission's plans to tear up and rebuild Virginia Street and the changes affecting Reno will continue over the next year.

These are the seven developments to watch in 2017. 

1. 3rd Street Flats redevelopment

Everyone's favorite beacon for downtown blight for 30 years is now the newest residential project completed in the center of downtown Reno. The former Kings Inn casino-hotel is now an apartment building with retail that should open early 2017.

Former Mayor Bob Cashell vowed to eliminate the "eyesore" from downtown Reno, but no politician, including him, gets to claim this one. Basin Street Properties and Bentar Development became one of the few downtown developers that did not ask for government subsidies to complete their project.

3rd Street Flats is also one of the few new rental properties in downtown. Rentals are available in the various condominium towers, but the flat is the first one in a while built for the sole purpose of renting. The rent prices, hitting $1,900 for a two-bedroom, one-bath, are higher than the average for any other similarly sized unit in the city, according to third quarter surveys by Johnson Perkins Griffin real estate consultants.

What we'll be watching in 2017: Will the 3rd Street Flats set a precedent for future rent prices and downtown rental property development?

2. Historically high rents in Reno

The sudden surge in development follows behind increased demand for housing as people move to Reno for jobs and low cost of living. The RGJ conducted an analysis for the rental market that showed high demand and low supply helped cause an 11 percent increase in rents over between the end of 2015 and mid-2016.

Developers are trying to keep up with the demand for student housing, affordable housing and market-rate housing. All three consultant groups to the city agree that Reno has too much high-cost housing and not enough housing at lower price points. It's unclear if developers will help solve Reno's housing woes by building the necessary proportion of each housing type in the coming years or make the problem worse.

The question to keep in mind for 2017: Will the rent increases level out while incomes catch up or will Reno's cost of living outpace its residents?

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3. Largest development proposal: West 2nd District

The Don J. Clark Group, headed by Don and Susan Clark and Colin Robertson, announced in early 2016 one of the most expensive projects in Reno history to develop 17 acres of west downtown. The otherwise forgotten area of downtown is ripe for development since much of it is still vacant land.

Clark presented a highly-detailed plan and started working with the city to secure subsidies, but so far no agreement has been reached publicly and no ground has been broken. In fact, several landowners have listed previously-controlled land on the open market. But, the University of Nevada, Reno agreed to sell the Nelson Building on Second and Ralston streets, which would help move the project along.

Don Clark said in the past that he would prefer the entire multi-phase, $1.2 billion project to be realized in full, but would also be happy if only parts of it are built. If the project finished in full over the next decade, Reno's skyline would change dramatically and 2016 would be the year it all started.

What to watch for in 2017: Will Reno see progress on a West 2nd District in downtown?

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4. The return of downtown retail

South of the Truckee River has seen several new major retailers taking up new homes in historic buildings.

Most notably, West Elm took the main floor of a historic U.S. post office, making it the first national retailer to return in 30 years. Many local retailers took up residents in the basement of the post office, called The Basement. Soon, the top two floors will likely be filled with office workers.

Across the street, Patagonia Outlet Store moved to a smaller historic building. Next door to that, See See Motor Coffee Co. also opened. And a new gym opened near that. The entire block near the Siena Hotel — which will soon turn into a Renaissance Hotel —  is ripe for retail expansion, especially as more residential buildings are renovated.

More historic buildings next to Whitney Peak Hotel in central downtown are preparing for retail, too. Downtown Reno's problem is not available space, but available customers.

Now all downtown Reno needs is more parking.

What to watch for in 2017: How quickly will the empty thousands of square feet of ground-floor space fill up with retail?

5. Casinos get spendy updates

Almost all the major hotels announced and started major renovations this year.

The Silver Legacy, Eldorado and Circus Circus started $50 million in renovations to common areas, including the Circus Circus Midway and the addition of a new spa among other changes. One of the most noticeable is the Circus Circus' new multi-colored outdoor lighting around both towers. What was previously a dark tower with lit signage is now a fully-lit building that more closely matches the nighttime look of the teal Silver Legacy and pink Eldorado.

Eldorado Resorts, Inc, the owner, also purchased Circus Circus this year and 13 other out of state casinos to create a larger portfolio.

The Nugget announced $25 million in renovations to rooms and their ballroom among other things. It was also purchased this year by Marnell Gaming, a company from Southern Nevada.

The Peppermill Reno remodeled Edge Nightclub, Oceano restaurant and Capri Ballroom. They also repainted the exterior and replaced the large outdoor sign.

The Atlantis built a brand new buffet and updated rooms. The Grand Sierra Resort also opened a new buffet, upgraded its convention space and began renovations to the outdoor pool area.

What to watch for in 2017: Is this a comeback for gaming?

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6. Park Lane Mall redevelopment at hand

Developer Chip Bowlby, who also started work on several other major projects, purchased the 45-acre lot in the center of town and announced plans to develop a mixed-use neighborhood where Park Lane Mall once stood.

Park Lane Mall was one of Reno's early indoor malls, back in the day when everyone in the country was shopping at malls. It was demolished in several phases between 2007 and 2009 then left empty for years.

Bowbly requested a subsidy from the city of Reno for $3.5 million in sewer reconfiguration and was awarded it. He hopes to break ground on the huge project by next year. If the project completes, the center of town will include new grocery store, retail and housing.

What to watch for in 2017: Will Midtown grow to encompass it?

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7. Virginia Street got a new bridge and plaza

A new $18.3 million Virginia Street Bridge replaced a more than 100 year-old bridge that frequently caused flooding in downtown Reno. The new bridge should alleviate flooding in the future, provided it ever rains again.

The new bridge was completed early in April, allowing traffic to flow as usual through the center of town. With it, came a new City Plaza and riverfront art space. The Urban Land Institute and Progressive Urban Management Associates would both like to see the city of Reno make better use of the plaza, which is currently an empty slab of concrete that occasionally holds events.

The plaza and bridge have potential for connecting north and south downtown by making the river and area around it more walkable and active. With the new Renaissance Hotel, West Elm and Patagonia on one side and casinos and empty space waiting to be filled on the other, Reno could see a more unified commercial and entertainment district if the development continues moving north in the downtown core.

What to watch for in 2017: Will the city take consultants' advice and make the plaza into a more hospitable, active space and will empty spaces on the north side of the river fill up with more retail?

What to watch for in 2117: What bridge will Reno get 100 years from now?

Mike Higdon is the city life reporter at the RGJ and can be found on Instagram @MillennialMike and on Facebook at Mike Higdon, Reno Life

Update Jan. 4 at 1:30 p.m.: Added Grand Sierra Resort 2016 info.

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