UNRCaerialIf you blinked, you missed it.  Reno is considering adding the north end of downtown into the University of Nevada Regional Center (UNRC) and subtracting it from the Downtown Reno Regional Center (DRRC).  While UNR has held several stakeholder meetings while preparing their new 10 year plan, and RTC has done considerable community outreach on their North Virginia Street Plan,  Reno has only held the NRS minimum 1 community meeting required.  A massive change of direction is proposed, and no one in the community not living within 750′ of the existing regional centers knows about it.  This is being fast-tracked more rapidly than any major policy project I have ever witnessed – 2 months from initial introduction at the Planning Commission to enabling ordinance adoption.

The UNR 10 Year Plan  (see Power Point presentation, but the rest is interesting, too)  identifies a very limited area of interest – Sierra to Center, I-80 to 5th, with some outlier circulation improvements.

The RTC Virginia Street Corridor Plan  manages to strategically nuke every weekly motel north of I-80.  Let the eminent domain sideshow begin.

Reno’s Plan  is far more sweeping (interesting that the URL on this link is RTC and not Reno or UNR).  That’s not wrong – a Regional Center encompasses a much larger area that the physical use it serves.  But take a look:

University of Nevada Regional Center Plan MAP-page-0On the NW corner, the boundary has been red lined around the Circus Circus, but the vacant block they own and an auto shop on Sierra have been excluded from UNRC.  Why?  Replacement casino?

I’ve never seen a proposal that took UNRC south of 5th Street, but the City is proposing all the way to the train trench, throwing the homeless services campus out of DRCC (the only place it is allowed) and into UNRC.  I think this is a red herring, and the boundary will be redrawn without the homeless campus pending further study at the Planning Commission meeting.

There are medical marijuana establishments (MMEs) within the area Reno is proposing to add to UNRC, which UNR will oppose strenuously.  Reno’s hands are tied – it is a State issue at this point.

There is no point opposing this plan.  The stars are aligned for ramrod approval.  Here are my concerns:

–  This isn’t just the UNR gateway, it is downtown Reno’s gateway.  Reno looks like it is sucking hind tit in the proposed agreement.

–  In the interim until a Neighborhood Plan can be established south of I-80, it will be chaos.  Parking requirements will go from the laxest under DRRC to the most restrictive under UNRC.

–  FARs will be reduced from 3.0 to 2.0.  Reno anticipates raising this to 4.0 to encourage density and maybe get a grocery store.  Ask any developer in the SVA corridor how the increased FARs work for them.  They have had to be slashed to meet market realities.

–  Unintended Consequences – The 2004 eastward expansion UNR Plan resulted in a whole sketchy neighborhood becoming REALLY sketchy when everyone assumed UNR was going to swoop in and buy their properties and stopped maintaining them.  This plan may do the same to an already decrepit area of town.  Recently approved zoning amendments for the Wells District of DRRC will have to be unwound.

–  Why?  This is just a branding exercise.  Does anyone believe that there is a threat from a new unlimited gaming casino and 200 room hotel here?

Sorry this post is such a ramble, but I could write a book about the forces at work here.  Read the links and make your own judgements.  I believe the current proposed district is a knee jerk reaction, that while probably a positive in itself, does not adequately address the Reno / UNR connection.  We need to slow down and take a deep breath.