Saving the Gateway

Perhaps for all the wrong reasons, UNR has managed to preserve an extraordinary catalog of historic homes in their Gateway District.  Not just historic because they are old, but for their architectural character and quality (don’t get me started on the issues of “context”!).  They are currently in the RFP process to sell them off to the highest bidder ($1) if the buyers will move them.  UNR “needs” the land for campus expansion.

UNR may need land, but do they really need THIS land (the Center Street properties)?  It is the most constrained and difficult to develop of all their Gateway properties.  Reno has the land UNR wants – Evans Park and an abandoned Lake Street.  Is it impossible to imagine a land swap that would be a win win situation for all parties involved, including the potential bidders vying to relocate and restore the houses?  Reno has just shown they are flexible and open to establishing Land Trusts, and this might be a perfect time to use one.

I am 100% behind the university and their right to use their land as they see fit.  But this is a case where much better solutions exist than a simple clear cutting of their properties.  In reality, many of the threaten homes simply can’t be relocated – they are too large to move on our city streets.  The arborectomy required to move the ones that can be relocated will be tragic.  I feel the costs associated with relocation would be much better spent on renovation in situ.

Now let’s dream really big.  There are still the Lake Street properties that do need to be relocated.  Why not to the adjoining 8th Street frontage?  Now we are talking about a real Gateway to the university!  Two property owners would have to play nice.  Bajwa Properties owns the Coed Motel, and Ross Rentals owns the apartment building just north.  The City has a certain amount of “leverage” with Bajwa, and Ross Rentals is one of the most civic-minded owns in Reno.

It is very late, but perhaps not too late.

Edit with comments:

No one has ever looked at UNRs Gateway properties as a development opportunity – that’s what Reno can bring to the table. The land swap for Part or all of Evans Park (do we really need a bocce ball park in the middle of a university?) could be epic. It should definitely be university supporting commercial and retail service – including some housing would be a Bonus Jack and Fries. I don’t know where you all went to college, but have you ever seen a more pathetic excuse of a university commercial core?

UNR has been buying up the last pieces of the Gateway for $100/SF. Capstone Collegiate Communities (CCC) is buying the assemblage at Bibo’s for $80/SF. If you imagine a straight SF trade of UNRs Gateway holdings on Center with the W half of
Reno’s Evans Park, university could be getting an additional 38,000 SF. At $80/SF, that’s worth $3M. That would be enough to buy out the Coed (I value it at $1,064,000 based on recent better hobotel listings) and Ross Rentals ($900,000 by my calcs, though Roberta may differ). There is enough in the equation to have UNR PAY for the relocation of the Lake Street properties into the Old Town District and they would still come out ahead.

Someone needs to step up to the plate and get this started with the City before it is too late.  Daytwa?  Alicia?  Jenny?

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Scraping UNR’s “Historic” Gateway

Probably 80% of the properties in the “UNR Gateway” between  campus and I-80 are crap or irredeemable and scraping them for campus development wouldn’t cause me to lose sleep.   A couple of the properties might be architecturally interesting enough to be worth moving, and a couple are actually historically worth preserving in situ and developing around.  Bungalow Hugger will, I’m sure, take me to task over my lack of sympathy to “context”, but crap is not context that needs preservation (4th Street Motels).

I’ve always stood by the university’s right to determine their own path, and have been bemused by their stonewalling of the preservation expert “stakeholders” who demand a seat at the table.  But UNR just pissed me off no end by issuing an RFP to relocate the homes with a 2 day deadline to register and put down a $500 home tour deposit.   I’m trying to register, and am still awaiting approval, but it seems I require human verification.

Why the sudden rush, UNR?  The PR backlash is going to kill any goodwill your have created.

ADUs

ADUs (Accessory Dwelling Units) come in 2 forms – AADUs are attached to the primary dwelling, and DADUs are detached.  Reno Planning Commission recently got their first look at a proposed ordinance to legalize ADUs in all single family zoning districts from SR6 and above and MF14 districts.

Washoe has allowed ADUs for years, and they haven’t been a negative force.  County zoning tends to be less dense than Reno zoning, and most of the approved ADUs have really been for extended family members.  Reno’s push for ADUs is a defacto upzoning to try to alleviate the current housing shortage.  I doubt if 20% of the Reno ADUs will be for extended family members – most will be rentals.

I was a part of Reno’s ADU Task Force that met to give input on the proposed ordinance.  Planning was tasked to ram the ordinance through by the Council, who believes ADUs are some sort of silver bullet that will alleviate all housing woes.  Planning is savvy enough to know that the ADU ordinance is mere eye candy and will do virtually nothing to add affordable housing stock.  Some take aways-

  •  ADU size was proposed to be capped at 800 SF – basically a 2 bedroom unit.  The Planning Commission seems to be looking at 500 SF – 1 bedroom.
  • The ordinance in no way addresses “Tiny Homes”, only stick build construction.
  • The ordinance prohibits ADUs in PUD zoning districts, and that’s a lot of red lining.
  • Most subdivisions have CCRs that limit land use to single family.  Changing CCRs is almost impossible in reality, so the ADU ordinance will only apply to maybe 5% of Reno properties unless individual subdivisions amend their CCRs.
  • Planning realized that this is a Pyrrhic ordinance, and ignored the impacts on school populations if it is “successful”.
  • Where ADUs are most needed to alleviate housing shortages are in the near in, dense, transit rich neighborhoods.   Most of these are zoned SR6, and almost impossible to add an ADU to.  If you are real estate shopping and want an ADU, look at corner lots.
  • Bitch and moan, and your neighborhood will be red lined out of the Ordinance.  Some neighborhoods are apparently more equal than others.  But it is politically easier that way.

I think the ADU ordinance is politically correct, ineffectual, and sort of dumb.  Some version will be adopted by the Planning Commission and the City Council because it will feel good, but it won’t have any impact on housing affordability and maybe 8 will get built.  To have a real impact, the Council would have to do the hard stuff – up-zone everything within at least the McCarran loop one level (SF9 to SF6, SF6 to MF14, etc.) and reduce the traffic and sewer fees for the areas of targeted development ( they run approximately $12,000 per unit).  I don’t see that happening – hard choices cost votes.

Who is the visionary planner in charge of Reno’s future?  Just askin’, because I really don’t know.

MACs 50 New Units In Midtown/Wells

Just when I got depressed by the lack of housing action, I realized that I have around 50 units of new housing under construction or in the pipeline near downtown.  The development process in Reno is glacial, and I truly forget what’s actually being built.

Tonopah Row – 8 new SFRs in duplex configuration for Blake Smith.   These will be for sale product, and probably priced at $600,000+.  They are a slightly dumbed down version of the Midtown Loft alley units.

261/263 Thoma – A new rental duplex for the Marmots, already dried in.  Very small units, and the project survived 5 Planning and 4 Building reviews due to a crotchety neighbor.  The scrutiny on this project triggered Reno to craft their new definition of “bedroom”, though we were always code compliant.

446/448 Roberts – Sort of a twin to the Thoma Project, permits are ready to issue but construction will lag a bit.

541/543 Sinclair – Another Marmot rental duplex, this is a riff on their 130 Caliente project.  Slab should be poured later this week.

Haskell Row – 22 rental lofts in duplex configuration, and not aiming for the low end of the market to be sure.  I’m really proud of this project after working on it for almost 3 years with various owners.  How it had to adapt to Planning code and the lack of City infrastructure is a story I will tell once permitting is complete.

Arroyo Cluster – The Marmots have successfully challenged Reno Plannings previous erroneous denials, and are gearing up on 10 new 1 bedroom units and a remodel of the existing 237 E Arroyo.  Permits are submitted for a new 4-plex and a new duplex, as well as the remodel.  A second 4-plex is ready to submit.  These units are all small, but the ground floor units of the 4-plexes are all designed to be Accessible Type B units.  Construction late 2018?

I doubt that any current Reno neighborhood residents will be able to afford to by or rent any of these properties as a primary residence.  Does that make me an evil enabler?

 

 

Park Lane and Catching Up

Has it really been this long between posts?  I’ll try to start catching you up on all the action (or lack thereof).

  •  Park Lane has filed for their first Site Improvement Permit.  In general, it is the southern part of their property that was to be “garden apartments” in one of their press releases (though their marketing site hasn’t been updated in months).  APNs 15-220- 71 through 74.  Closer to code conforming, but Planning better have comments on the non-conforming parking facing Grove Street –  We all need to be evaluated on an even playing field.
  • Student Housing – I’m tracking somewhere between 2500 and 3000 bedrooms of student housing around UNR right now.  The project at 6th and NVA is in Site Permit review right now, though the title hasn’t transferred yet.  UNR better up their enrollment to meet the capacity of rooms coming on line!
  • Somersett Walls a Falling – The SOA has filed suit against anyone still standing for construction defects on all of the rockery walls on their common spaces.  Repairing the 2 current major failures is a $2.5M cost, and one of the failures on Trail Ridge is on property that the Country Club is probably responsible for.
  • Mill Street Lofts project is most likely dead.  The project is being marketed on Loopnet as an office play.
  • World’s Smallest Water Park?  Go Eldorado!  I think the may be only trying to smoke out Fountain District and Grand Sierra on their plans for similar facilities.

I’m back and I’m bad!  I never report on my own projects, but there is some serious push the envelope shit on the table right now.  Is Reno ready to trash the book and get some affordable housing solutions built?  Nah, Planning has their 1200 page bible to flog you with on anything you propose.

60 Fewer Weeklies

Nevada River Inn 322 N Arlington

Jacobs, just STOP.   Demo permits were submitted today to nuke the Deep Sleep Inn, the Star of Reno, and the Nevada River Inn on N Arlington Street to make way for the ephemeral “Fountain District”.  I am the biggest urban renewal fan out there, but this is 60 more units added to you clear cutting of W 4th Street and we haven’t seen a hint of what you plan in replacement.  I’m sure these weeklies were absolute hell holes, but maybe a more humane business model would be to improve the living conditions for the residents until you need (and have approvals for)  the land, whatever your project is going to be.  The somewhat historic The Patio bar on W 5th Street was also added to the scrape list.

It looks like Silverwing Development is gearing up for a 10 storey project called the Deco in downtown Sparks at 955 C Street.  In the mean time, I’m battling Reno Planning to build a 2 storey skyscraper in the Wells District in Reno.  Sparks has added over 500 new units of housing in their Downtown Redevelopment District over the last couple years, while Reno has managed to produce 30 or so.

I truly wish that I had news to post more often, but there is surprisingly little going on in Downtown Reno, my primary focus.  Jacobs is silent on the Fountain District.  W 2nd Street District  has finally stopped beating their own drum.  Park Lane seems to be moving along, but no permits or detailed plans have been made public, and their web site hasn’t been updated in months.  I have over 75 units in the working drawings in Downtown/Midtown/Wells, but can’t disclose until the permits are issued (and maybe not even then).

Wait a minute, 10 stories in downtown Sparks, and Reno’s primary thoroughfare S Virginia Street is capped at 5?  And a half a block off SVA is capped at 2?  Go figure where the development dollars are going.

Lake Mill Apartments?

Code Enforcement  (you may have to enter 200-200 Mill) complaints against the Lake Mill Lodge at 200-200 Mill Street.  Permit applications to convert the hotel units to studio units 1 and 2.

Flea bag motel to flea bag apartments does not impress me. BRAR needs to step and make a firm commitments to upgrading the living conditions at the Lake Mill.  These permits should be denied or conditioned unless there are serious code upgrades included in the plans.  Reno has the leverage now.

Cryptonomicon

Am I getting old?  I never head of a blockchain until today, and Bitcoin was barely on my radar.  South Valley Acquisition LLC with Blockchains LLC as a director, just purchased all the remaining land at TRIC – Tahoe Reno Industrial Center.  All 64,000 acres, which equals 100 square miles.  The all cash purchase price was $35,876,222.80 according to the Storey County Recorder.  Google “Jeffry K Berns” and take a look at Blockchain.com  for more information.   Cybercurrency apparently became a big deal while I had my back turned.

Here’s a map of the biggest players at TRIC – click to enlarge.

 

Biggest Little Ferris Wheel

Are we about to get the Reno Eye?  Jacobs Entertainment has applied for a trademark for “Reno Eye” with the description of IDENTIFICATION
Amusement park rides; amusement park rides including Ferris wheels.  The full trademark filing document is HERE.  Jacobs has also applied for Fountain Hotel and Casino, Fountain Casino Hotel, Fountain Gardens, Reno Fountain District, and Reno Live.

I’ve been giving Jacobs a hall pass on the acquisitions and demolition projects.  They seem to be pretty responsible in aiding the residents displaced from their demolition efforts.  But my patience is wearing thin, and I’m not going to remain silent much longer unless a real build back plan is revealed soon.   I’m not sure a Ferris wheel is the solution to W 4th Street, and question the entire concept of an “Entertainment District”.  How did the Freight House District play out for us?  This Strongtowns article is a must READ.

  •  Park Lane filed a BLA (Boundary Line Adjustment) for their properties.  They didn’t have to go though the Parcel Map or Subdivision Map processes due to the number of original parcels.  The new parcels are at least generally aligned with the proposed development phases.  Reno Land / Park Lane isn’t really a “developer” but more of an entitlement flipper (Rancharrah, Meridian 120).  It is sort of comforting that the steps to the flip are falling into place, and manageable development tracts are being created.

 

  • You all know my war on required parking minimums – I believe parking should be a business decision and not a Planning ultimatum.  THIS ARTICLE from Strongtowns has some great graphic examples of what parking minimum policy does to destroy redevelopment in general, but especially in the areas of our cities we most cherish.

 

  • The stoopid MLS listing of the week goes to 8190 and 8220 Desert Way.  Advertised as zoned “High Density Residential” when in fact HDR is county High Density Rural zoning with a 2 acre minimum lot size.  Not to say the parcels don’t have some development potential, but over $100,000 per developable dirt lot (assuming Reno SF15) ain’t gonna fly.  The link is to Mitch Argon’s site, and it will probably ask you to subscribe to view the listing (or you could search for it on https://nnrmls.com).  The site is spam free, and is by FAR the best real estate web site out there.  I recommend subscribing to Mitch’s quarterly market reports – they rock.

Urban Density

That our urban core should be our densest development zone is sort of a given.  I’m going to highlight 8 or so projects either finishing up, in construction, or on the boards.  DUA = Dwelling Units per Acre.  This measures how dense the unit count is, and roughly compares to Planning designations like MF30 – 30 units per acre, 1450 SF area minimum.  “Built Density” is a term I’m making up, but it is sort of like FAR – Floor Area Ratio – for commercial buildings.  BD measures how many inhabitable SF of living space is being provided as a percentage of gross lot area.  All figures are rough estimates based on currently available public documents.

Midtown Lofts is an easy place to kick this off, since the RGJ can’t seem to get the “What does a $600K Townhouse Look Like” drivel article off their site.  Midtown Lofts (new construction only) is 9 units totaling 14,710 SF of habitable space on a 16,600 SF parcel.  23.6 DUA, and .886 BD.

Tonopah Lofts will be 8 units shotgunned across the site based  on the Midtown Lofts 210/212 Stewart model, 2/2.5 units with a mezzanine (since 3 storey buildings are banned in Midtown Commercial zone).  13,560 SF of building on a 12,780 SF site.  27 DUA, and 1.06 BD.

Martin 3×3 are 6 SFRs currently framed up.  The market wants SFRs, even if our antiquated zoning code won’t permit them even if they meet the minimum area density requirements.  This project went through a $30,000+ SUP process to get SFR approved.  9096 SF of buildings on a 14,000 SF parcel.  18.6 DUA (18 DUA is the minimum  on Midtown Commercial) and a.65 BD.

The Haskell Project is a project that has been floating around for a couple of years now, and the site is currently being cleared for new 1/1.5 units and some new/renovated commercial space.  On the residential side, 19,118 SF of buildings on what will become a 25,558 SF site.  37 DUA and .90 BD.

Tiny 10 is in the punch list stage and landscaping is being installed.  10 new units totaling 6724 SF on a 19,486 SF parcel.  22.4 DUA (close to Midtown Lofts) with a .345 BD.

Wells 4 is an infill project in Wells CC zoning.  4 1/1 units as tight as they come, meant to be built and rented affordable.  2106 SF of habitable area on a 3541 SF lot.  49 DUA (CC has no density cap) and a .60 BD.

Out to the burbs for some context and contrast, Vintage at Sky Mountain is a 288 unit affordable apartment development of 264,468 SF project area on 449,726 SF of land.  28 DUA, but only a .59 BD (open parking kills you).

Nearby will be Summit 61, a market rate 2/2.5 townhouse development meant for sale.  61 totaling 113,884 SF on a 126,286 SF parcel.  21 DUA and a .90 BD.

If you are still awake, here is what I’m really trying to say:

  • MF15, MF30, MU and CC zoning don’t come near describing development potential and constraints.
  • Reno’s zoning classifications are accidentally favoring anti-family 1 bedroom units in the urban core.
  • Current Development Code is allowing and promoting denser development in suburban areas than in the Downtown Core.
  • Unit counts do not equal development density.  What the units are matter a great deal.
  • The 1/1 8-plex on a 7000 SF urban lot is the hottest deal in town, even as Reno seeks to eliminate them.

Any thoughts?