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. 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?

Squatting in Somersett

squat 2Squat 1

Posted from an email:

We have a squatter who has moved into the house across the street with no power or garbage service.  He has been running a generator 24/7 for a couple of weeks before another neighbor went over there and told him to stop.  He has since started building a fire in the back yard to cook his meals and plays loud music late at night as well.  The owner has been reported missing and is on the national missing persons list.  We have called Reno PD and also reported this to Monica Rios and Mariah over 2 weeks ago. They came out when Reno PD arrived and talked with them and they exchanged info but basically Reno PD knew about Joanne being missing. PD that came out said nothing they can do about the code violations and that our HOA should be handling that.  One cop did say that he would pass the info onto code enforcement but since Monica took over we are unable to get ANY information.  She claimed confidentiality and if we want to call 911 to report the fires then we could do that.  We have no idea what is being done by our HOA other than sending out a letter as per Monica.  The violations continue to escalate.  The lawn is dying, trash is piling up next to his fence and rats have been seen and the smell is bad and now this banner. The PD social welfare dept also came out because he was reported to have made threats against the Archbishop in San Francisco but still it isn’t enough.  Just now he has hung this large banner in front of the house and started yelling at my neighbor who went outside to look.  This man is obviously mentally deranged and everybody we have spoken to has confirmed including the police but nobody is doing anything.  What the hell is our HOA worth if they refuse to let us know what they are doing yet they will be quick to issue us a violation if we have weeds or leave our garbage can out one extra day????? 

Can you give us some advise?  The address of this house is 821 Larrimore Trail.

There goes the neighborhood.



Land Costs, and What’s Up with the Assessor?

Here are some recent “land” cost comps and asking prices:

  • 525 W 4th Street – sold to Jacobs entity for $4M, $157/SF land, over $85K per room for a weekly motel.
  • 155 Stevenson (Greyhound) – $67/SF.
  • Canyon Flats at 6th, Center and NVA – Student housing site, most parcels have transferred at $60/SF.
  • Italian Capital / N Tessera – asking $80/SF.
  • Apple Downtown – $39/SF.
  • 401 W 2nd – UNR’s Nelson Building – $98/SF.  W 2nd Street District had it in contract at $7M or so.  They pro forma’d their land costs at $30?SF.

The Assessor values and taxes these properties at $6-12/SF.  What is up with that?  Do you get an idea of why:

  • Reno is always broke?
  • With a maximum 8%/year increase, it will take decades to get these properties paying equitable property taxes?
  • Nothing is happening?


  • 1st and Bell – Demo permits filed today for 4 contiguous parcels.  Anyone heard what is up?

Tonopah Lofts

The Tonopah Lofts are the last of the 1401 Midtown Project, which included expanding the old Heritage Bank building by 12,000 SF.  1402 Tonopah is listed on the MLS for $599,000, and 1404 (interior unit) is listed at $589,000.  These units are identical in plan to the Midtown Lofts project at 210/212 and 218/220 Stewart Street, which all sold in this general price range but with $25,000 or per unit in incentives (car, decorating package, Tesla charging stations).

This project could not be built today under the current ephemeral and ever changing “interpretations” by Reno Planning.  Ask me, and I’ll tell you why.  And I’ll also tell you how we circumnavigated the draconian Midtown Plan to make it happen.

This project took over 3 years to complete in total, and the average infill project is running at 2 years+ right now.  I’m done, I think the developer is generally happy, so I’m now open to your questions about the development process and comments on the end result.

(Undisclosed Address)

Does that lead line in a real estate listing grate on you like it does me?  But if you insist on trying to list anonymously, can you please not have your realtor post photos of your house with the address clearly shown?

THIS Undisclosed Address listing is 2085 Regent – go read the mailbox photo.  Purchase for $303,000 4 years ago and the furnace has been swapped out.  Now listed for $635,000.  The house has an unfortunate amount of “original charm” and the price seems outrageous.  They will probably get it.

The River Inn 2

The second post I ever put up on this blog was about the River Inn in west Reno.  It is by far the most popular post on REreno with 11,017 views to date (a post called Turkeys is #3 and gets a lot of hits around Thanksgiving!).

The River Inn has just be listed for sale with an undisclosed asking price.   What can it become?  The earlier proposal is HERE with some comments.  What would you offer?


1st Fountain District Permit +

The Fountain District has applied for their first permit for new work.  An impressive 104 space surface parking lot serving all the wasteland their demo has created on 4th Street.  They have also closed on additional properties – The In-Town motel at 260 W 4th Street, the Lido Motel at 280 W 4th Street, 428 Ralston, 436 Ralston, 0 Ralston APN 007,281-17, and 430 W 5th Street.  The land cost under the motels was over $200/SF.  No one else can compete with Jacobs’ deep pockets, and it is sucking the air out of all other downtown redevelopment.  And I can;t help but think that the “Row” isn’t going to be very supportive of any Special Use Permits that the Fountain District will require.

  • At least one of the threatened houses at the UNR gateway may get new life.  655 Arlington/501 St. Lawrence is going through the process to be on the 20 June  Planning Commission meeting.  Got to brag – this is a MAC project.  You can roast me at the 7 June NAB 1 meeting.


  • Before Meridian 120S even gets their 75 units approved out at Boomtown, they have applied for a Tentative Map for 285 attached “single family. units.  Though they look pretty, they are just a dulled up version for the Estancia 3-plex model that nobody really shows any love for.  What’s with that full 1 mile dead-end road servicing the project?  Didn’t Flood Plain Andy witness the fires that surrounded the site last Summer.


  • Toll Brothers received Final Map approval for the first 48 lots in their Cliffs project at Somersett Village 6.  They will join Desert Wind at Village 1A, Ryder’s The Pointe at Somersett/SBE, Argos at Meridian 120N and Meridain 120S chasing the $600,000 list $900,000 sell market.  It’s getting a bit crowded chasing the RICCOHs (Rich Californians Coming Over the Hill), when you add in Homecrafter’s Pine Bluffs and Tim Lewis’s Whimpering Canyon.



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?

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.