233 Court Street

Don’t recognize the address?  It is the vacant lots surrounding the Park Tower condos at 280 Island.  It was once proposed to be the site of the Wingfield Towers condominium project, one of the most ambitious in Reno history.  Downtown Makeover has an interesting project summary on their Post Mortem page HERE.  I’m not sure the link to the fly through (“if you have high-speed internet” – a lot has changed over the last decade!) still works, but HERE it is on YouTube.

And if you order by midnight tonight, the development opportunity could be yours for just $9,498,000 or 4 low monthly payments of $2.5M.

The last decade has been a series of contentious lawsuits reaching the Nevada Supreme Court over some very interesting minutia all architects should be interested in regarding lien laws.  (start HERE and work backward on the Recorder’s site if you are interested).

Is is just me, or was the proposed Wingfield Towers a really beautiful looking project?


Dueling Entertainment Districts

The Freight House District appears to be waking from the dead.  It was our original “entertainment district” which for many reasons became un-entertaining.  The related owners recently purchased APNs 011-074-07, 08, 12, and 13 for $2.4M.  I’m sure these were tied up earlier for less during the original Freight House Fenzy, and I’d love to be Chaves right now!

Does Reno need an “entertainment district” at all?  Do we need 2 with whatever Jacobs is planning for the Fountainhead District on W 4th Street?  Will they compete for excellence, or grovel to the lowest common denominator?  Bubba
Gump’s Shrimp Company, table for 5?

It’s been a long time since I’ve even thought about it, but I believe the Freight House is still in a STAR Bond District, eligible for up to a 75% reduction in property taxes.  Fountain District is not a STAR district, and has so far not (publicly) asked for TIF (tax incremental financing, reduced property taxes in lieu of public improvements) to reduce their tax burdens.  I sorta don’t think they will given how they have operated so far.  As much as I dislike some of Jacob’s tactics, I sort of appreciate their development approach so far, even when I diss them.

So Jacobs, how is that Spring of 2018 unveiling of your Fountain District plans coming along?  Will competition get you to the megaphone?

“Argos for $600,000, Alex”

Argos aka Meridian 120 South just closed their first production home.  9040 Boomtown Garson sold for $610,066 or $216/AF, apparently as an investment property.  Bates Stringer has sold 2 of their model homes with lease-back agreements for an average of $903,978 or $265/SF.

–  Ryder has started closing their production homes at the Pointy in Somersett.  There have been 4 completed sales so far with an average price of $633,730 or $245/SF.

– D R Horton has yet to close a house at The Estates at West Meadows, but they seem to be aiming for this same price point, and are building as fast as lumber can be harvested in Canada.

Pine Bluff in Caughlin Ranch by Homecrafters is selling as fast as they can build them.  The 8 closings so far average $975,100 or $312/SF.  Larger lots than the other projects.

– Toll Brothers haven’t started marketing their 165 unit Landslides Cliffs project in Somersett yet, but it is priced from $598,000.  I’ve seen the plans, and don’t expect to see any sales south of $1M.  Is the market for gauche homes going to be large enough?

As a general rule of thumb, you can add at least 30% to the base price of a production home to get to a real sales price. There is ALWAYS a “lot premium” and niceties like toilet paper holders and towel bars in the bathrooms can be an extra – no joking.  Approximately 30% of Reno residents can afford a home at the current median price of +/- $375,000.  Maybe 10% can afford these new Californicated monsters?  I do not aspire to be able to buy a $750,000 home 5′ from my neighbor’s $750,000 home with mirrored plans looking into each others bathrooms, and no way to build a pathway to my backyard without disrupting site drainage.  And I never expected to be looking UP at an Interstate Highway in my (code minimum) back yard, at any price point.



……So Close to Hell You Can See Reno.”

While Reno continues to struggle to attract any meaningful Downtown housing development, Sparks has managed to get 1670 units underway with more planned.  Why? And why isn’t Reno more effective realizing their Master Plan objectives?

  • They have proactively and constructively worked with the development community to achieve their Master Plan goals.
  • Sparks is a known quantity for developers – they stick to their codes and agreements.
  • Sparks is closer to the center of gravity of regional job growth – TRIC.
  • Old redevelopment mistakes left Sparks with land to develop. Reno has it’s own legacy of redevelopment mistakes, but not the legacy of resulting desirable properties.  And what Reno has is tossed away.
  • Comment from a Sparks developer:  “Though we had enjoyed a long and continuous relationship starting in 1995, we have simply found the Reno Council methods of operation to be too difficult to pursue redevelopment in Reno’s downtown without assuming much higher risks than typical in the business. Missing the timing of this current economic cycle to initiate this objective is certainly unfortunate for everyone that makes NNV their home.”

Here are the current 873 units surrounding Victorian Square:

  • Fountainhouse – 220 + 18 units = 238.
  • Bridges – 194 unit.
  • Square One – 100 units.
  • Deco – 209 units (could Reno’s Parking Galleria do this?).
  • Atrium – 132 units.
  • The Future Development in the center is the Promenade – specifics to follow soon.

Just 2 mile to the East at Sparks Marina, another 797 (maybe more) are under construction:

Lyfe – 280 units.

Azure – 308+ units.

Waterfront – 209 units.





Reno’s twerpy kid brother has grown up and is turning into Prince Harry instead of Wills.  Well played!

Reno Gateway Business Park

LCD18-00065 Reno Gateway Business Park will be heard by the Reno Planning Commission at 6 PM Wednesday evening.  It is a Washoe project but withing the Reno SOI.  It is requesting cuts and fills over the standard limit in order to construct 100,000+ SF on mini-storage and 344,000 SF of 40’+ high logistic space (frankenwarehouse).  Here is a MAP with the warehouse buildings sketched in.

The Staff Report is missing a complete Exhibit 1 purported to show the visual impacts from the Scenic Overlook / Historic Markers / Truck pull out heading eastbound.  A Traffic Study is referenced, but not attached to this Staff Report.  These factors alone should result in a continuance, but that can’t be guaranteed.

Have any one of you not almost rear ended a vehicle entering I-80 eastbound at the blind uphill Mogul on ramp, or almost been rear ended yourself by trying to make room for merging traffic?  This proposal would add a significant volume of slow accelerating semi trailers to the already dangerous condition.  Westbound is even worse.  There is not an NDOT report in this Staff Report.

This is a weird project based on the jurisdiction, SOI, and the developer’s earlier attempt to exclude Reno from the approval process.  But it is a really bad project that will exacerbate already dangerous freeway conditions.  Raise your voices!

Park Lane Planning

A building permit for a 5 storey parking garage has been filed for the Park Lane project on APN 015-220-65.  That’s a bit NW of the existing theater   identified as 1A.  The original plan indicated 202 units, and the RGJ story mentions 227 units on the 3.524 acre site, for a density of 64 units per acre.

Park Lane is part of the MUSV South Virginia Transit Oriented Development overlay.  In the North District (South District starts at Moana) and not in Midtown which generally ends at Mount Rose.  It should be noted that Reno Zoning is PARCEL based, not PROJECT based unless there is a PUD or SUP in place.  Unless I’m missing something, Park Lane has neither.

So what is allowed to be built here under current Zoning and Development Code?  MU has some setback requirements, but no height or density restrictions unless modified by the adoption of a Specific Plan (like MUSV). Parcels fronting on S Virginia Street have some minimum setback and density standards, but no maximum density or height restrictions (unless the FAA disapproves).  Parcels not “adjacent” to SVA have a MAXIMUM density of MF30.  Code excerpt:

f. Density and Intensity.
The minimum residential density, on parcels located adjacent to South Virginia
Street, shall be 18 dwelling units per acre. The maximum density on parcels that
are not located adjacent to South Virginia Street and not located within the
Midtown District shall be 30 dwelling units per acre.

Uh Oh.  The parcel under development is certainly not adjacent to Virginia Street by any eyeball or by Code definition.  In fact, the permit assigns it a 0 Plumb Lane address.  It is allowed 105 units by right with unlimited height, and over 200 units are proposed.

Reno Planning has a very rigorous and linear approval process which has bitten me in the butt more times than I can recount.  Their requirements are generally arcane and on first (and second and third) review quite incomprehensible.  Yet I and my clients comply with Planning’s set process, even when it makes no sense.  I understand that a NO is easier to deal with than a YES that has to be justified, it is just frustrating.  Planning is all about their process and details of their own process.  It will be interesting to see how they deal with a much higher level planning issue than I usually deal with in a politically charged arena.

I think I know how the story ends.

Jacobs Builds!

Or at least remodels.   A permit to remodel the Crest Inn was just submitted for the 46 unit property.  The $200,000 permit value is a bit meager, but this is the first forward-moving permit we have seen from Jacobs and the Fountain District.  Unless you count the surface parking lot across  the street.

  • “Perhaps” related is the demo permit next door at 501 W 4th Street.  Only the canopy at this time with storage tank permit removal to follow. I assume the”gas and go” will follow.
  • Park Lane is moving forward with an SUP for mini storage as their opening gambit.  This 3 storey junk storage barn will effectively prevent neighborhoods to the East to benefit in the changes Park Lane will bring to the neighborhood.  And do we really need an additional 8 unit RV storage facility in a Transit Corridor?  Jeez, $3M in sewer credits and Reno gets mini storage?  I want a rebate.
  • Mo Costo – Costco is expanding by 20,000 SF into the adjacent old Office Depot tenant space on Harvard Way.
  • Lakeridge Tennis Club is on the market again for $15M, with schematic plans for an entire makeover that may or may not include tennis.
  • ADUs Ain’t for Yuz – At least not in Reno when the Planning Commission unanimously reject the ordinance proposed by Reno Planning.  I was a member of the Professional Focus Group for the ordinance, so got a bit of an inside view.  I may (or may not) post my comments about the ordinance and the process initiated by the Mayor and the Council as a knee jerk reaction to a “housing crisis”, but for now will leave you with a couple of links to consider:
  • How Cities Get Granny Flats Wrong
  • Does the Public Really Wan Dramatic Change?  Make sure to read the comments!

Any projects you want updates about?

Selling Midtown

The partnership between Tolles Development and Marmot Properties made big news just 10 months ago when they purchased the Carter and Johnson parcels in Midtown for $16.5M.  Several of the Carter parcels have returned to the market:

701 S Virginia aka Saint Lawrence Commons – Purchased for $1,551,327 and listed at $2,550.000 with a 5.51% CAP rate.

677 S Virginia / 25 Saint Lawrence – Purchased for $1,121,230 and listed for $1,600,000 with a 5.59 CAP rate.

737 S Virginia – Purchased for $395,690 and listed for $750,000, no CAP rate listed.

No pro forma information was listed to support the CAP rates (existing or projected?), so I take them with a grain of salt – they are pretty slim as quoted.  Retail rents in Midtown are in the $18-21/SF range and the existing tenants are faltering.

S Virginia is about to be disrupted for 2 years for a reconstruction project, and these properties are at ground zero.

Bernie Carer is a pretty smart guy, so I doubt he got taken to the cleaners when he sold.  Or are these list prices just motion in place of action right now?  Are you ready for a Sephora outlet to pay the rent to make these deals  pencil?  Local businesses won’t be able to pay the freight.

The Look Alikes

Seriously, architects don’t copy each others work – our egos are too big for that.  But why does the new construction downtown look so much alike?  It is the convergence of what the market likes, what we can afford to build, Planning code and Building/Energy code restrictions.

  • We can Sell it – The vaguely Mid Century Modern look is popular right now, and buyers/renters seem to like it and most importantly will pay for it.  Even the high end production builders like Toll Brothers, Ryder, Bates and even Homecrafters are sticking strange angled roofs into their McMansion offerings.
  • We can “Sell” it – Once their is an accepted model, we can usually get Planning to approved it again.  And again. Sure beats the bloody foreheads from banging our heads on our desks on our clients’ dime on EVERY project. And yes, we will still always have to respond to their standard comment to “add horizontal and vertical articulation”.
  • It’s a cheap truss design – We can all share our nightmares with the performance (and major ‘tude) of the truss companies in this hot market.  The now adopted 2012 International Energy Conservation Code requires R-49 roof insulation, which takes 16-18″, creating “raised heels” for all the trusses and adding to the cost – we aren’t allowed to “crush” the insulation any more.
  • No Property Line Eaves – This is generally true in infill development when we are fighting for maximum density.  Eaves less that 5′ from a property line have to be fire rated construction on the underside, which is just an added cost.  No eaves on the down-slope side is also cheaper for gutters and rain water leaders.
  • 2:12 Roofs – Contractors hate them, but a 2:12 slope is the minimum required to allow for standard asphalt shingle roofs.  Lower slopes require a TPO roofing system at double the cost, and generally require parapets to hide them – they ain’t pretty.  More complicate roofing schemes, which Planning has a knee-jerk affection for, just adds more cost and detailing.
  • Barn Wood – OK, this one triggers all my gag reflexes, but the market seems to love it and the clients demand it.  I’m from the rural Midwest where barn wood was generally on barns.  What you see being used today is faux barn wood – cedar that has been slapped with some acid dye and left outside to cure to look bad – great  environmental story.  You can now buy ceramic tile for exterior use designed to mimic barn wood, and the fake stone people also have their competing products.  At least Montana Ghost Wood has and environmental backstory to tell about their fake product – it is created (usually) from lodge pole pine trees that have been burned in forest fires or killed by beetles.

I’m looking forward to the market turning to a Richardsonian Romanesque Revival style, but until then, look for a lot more of the look alikes.

Okay, 2 real estate listing hit the market that I really like this week.

  • 2885 Plumb Lane.  Mid Century Modern with some real cred and integrity.
  • 540 Gavica Lane.  You get used to the trains, and the original 1902 homestead house is intriguing.

The Twinkle Light Rebellion

Are Costco’s bare bulb LED Edison string of lights violating the CCRs of “dark skies” development like Somersett? People LOVE them, and they create a great mood for under $50.  But they seem to violate CCRs.  I’ve asked the International Dark-Sky Organization for their opinion and feedback.  Are the HOAs being silly and petty, or fighting the good fight?

  • Wish I could rotate this, but WP is fighting me tonight.  Want to buy a church on the National Register of Historic Places?  590 Pyramid in Sparks is your ticket.  Here’s the LISTING and here are some PHOTOS from the National Registry.  What do you do with a property like this?  And why have the current owners painted the base and pilasters of a historic (really and for true this time) property?  Does defacing architecture generate more converts?


  • The ArrowCreek golf courses have yet another new OWNER.  Seller was the Friends of ArrowCreek, affectionately know in the community as the FOACers.  $4,972.759.  Buyer is Lucky Star Golf LLC out of Florida.  https://arrowcreek411.com/ will probably have the full scoop soon, and is a great source to trace all the history of this trouble marriage.
  • MIA – Park Lane Mall Residential
  • MIA2 – Wildflower Village Luxury Apartments.


  • Can anyone please explain to me why our greatest construction focus seems to be on mini storage?  Do people not just throw crap out anymore, or there just no place to store things in the 20×20 garage Toll Brothers build for $1M+ homes?