The City of Reno is at an important crossroads. The area will be successful because or in spite of itself. With the potential for substantial business and residential growth, only history will tell whether the right decisions were made to create the sustainable environment to maximize the opportunity.
2 years ago, I created what was initially the Reno Economic Development Initiative (REDI), with 30+ community stakeholders representing the public, academic and private sectors. The goal of the initial strategic doing sessions was to figure out a way to increase our tax base and our median income by attracting businesses associated with our knowledge-based economy. This stemmed from the ill-conceived 'Margins Tax' that failed on the November 2014 ballot, yet identified the need to create income for revenue starved state and local governments.
In February 2014, REDI morphed into the Renossance Project (nothing to do with the local casino that absconded with the name). The focus was further refined to target the redevelopment of our blighted downtown core area, especially north of the Truckee River. This area, though rougly .2% of the city's 106 square miles, accounts for between 25% and 40% of the crime (Reno Police Department DOJ Grant Application Statistics). This quadrant of the city is rife with boarded up motels and houses, liquor stores and run down homes that somehow escape code enforcement. The last project that was promoted was Teserra, a Tourism Improvement District (TID) funded through the much maligned STAR Bond program. It was a great looking project that would have solved a lot of downtown's issues, but the timing was poor thanks to the near collapse of our financial system (The Great Heist!). The City of Reno recently granted a 5 year extension for the TID and we all hope that the developer behind the project gets the capital he needs to bring this dream to reality. We are all in support of it. Our project proposal is the University District which has support from both the city and UNR and is actually outlined in UNR's Strategic Plan (they call the area Southern Gateway). We still have hopes for the area, but see little movement due to major property ownership issues.
That said, The Renossance Project has shifted focus away from this part of downtown and focusing our energies around the Truckee River, from the Aces Ballpark on the East to Chism on the west and south of the river through Midtown. A prominent local developer told me, 'If we can't fix downtown, let's move it!'. He has a point.
All the people I talk to (that's a lot!) are very bullish on Reno...and they should be. We live in an incredible part of the country, surrounded by natural beauty, a great quality of life and great neighbors. Many natives left and have come back to stay. Many newbies have come and have no intention of leaving. That says something. We ARE a community and to a person, we all are engaged in making our home everything it can be. Civic involvement is up, businesses are thriving and we are attracting outside capital like never before.
We have a long way to go. Check back frequently or contact me to get involved. Community development is a team sport...get in the game!
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