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Whitney Peak Hotel is upgrading three of its buildings, including the Old Reno Casino, Vino restaurant and blue parking garage. Updates to the three exteriors are meant to attract tenants to the long-vacant spaces in downtown Reno.

"Now is a good time to pursue tenants," said Whitney Peak Hotel manager Niki Gross. "We didn’t see demand for it before, but the landscape (downtown) is changing. In their current state, they aren’t viable."

Gross said they spent the last two years fixing up the hotel, finishing their new third-floor event space and are now focusing on the other buildings owned by the hotel.

The Old Reno Casino signage was removed for restoration earlier this year after the city of Reno kept fining Whitney Peak Hotel for building code violations, Gross said. She hopes to incorporate the restored sign either back onto the building or somewhere else if the future tenant doesn't want it.

The vacant Vino restaurant around the corner on Sierra Street currently has a dilapidated Italian-themed facade that will also be ripped off and replaced.

"You're not going to recognize it when it's done," Gross said.

The blue parking garage on Virginia Street, currently used by Whitney Peak Hotel, will also receive updates. The ground floor houses an empty retail space that will receive a face lift. The north and south sides of the garage feature murals and Gross said she wants the west side to also feature some kind of permanent art too.

The historic Reno Mercantile/Masonic Lodge No. 13 building was not listed for any changes. However, Gross said they will need to do preventative maintenance before the winter to make sure the roof and other structural elements stay intact. The Mercantile is the oldest building in downtown Reno.

Whitney Peak Hotel contracted with Cathexes architecture studio, the same company working on several other contemporary projects throughout the downtown corridor. Gross said she didn't want to release preliminary designs in case those change dramatically between now and the final version.

Gross said they want to pick the right tenant mix to improve downtown Reno.

"We want someone that makes sense to the development of Reno," she said. "We’ve turned down tenants who didn’t align with our philosophy on that. I think retail is a big hold or small business office space. That’s what we’re looking at. Not really looking for a restaurant, not opposed to it, but it needs to be the right fit."

Mike Higdon is the city life reporter at the Reno Gazette-Journal. He an be found on Instagram @MillennialMike and on Facebook at Mike Higdon, Reno Life.

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