Can Apple, Indie Music And Gourmet Pizza Reinvent Reno?

Out west, Reno is often seen as something akin to Detroit: a city that depended on a single industry for far too long. Or in Reno’s case, industries: first gold mining, then divorces, and for the past half-century, gambling (or as the industry now likes to call itself, gaming).

Lately, there’s been a lot of angst in Reno about what the city’s next steps will be. Should it try to chase big technology names? Emphasize its proximity to Lake Tahoe and California? Or create a cool Reno that attracts young, hip residents to whom Reno’s notorious history is simply a matter of the past?

Last month, a group of journalism students at the University of Nevada, Reno, tackled all the issues facing the community on a blog called Reinventing Reno. Under my direction, the team — whose members were Cambria Roth, Zach Yeager, Zachary Volkert, Sage Leehey, Chanelle Bessette, Melissa McMorran, Nick Rattigan, Katherine Sawicki and Laney Olson — fanned out across Reno to find stories that look at Reno’s future.

Reno’s revival, according to the team, looks like it will rely on a collection of ideas and efforts, touching every level of the city’s economy. They include:

Big name businesses. Reno officials were ecstatic in late June when Apple announced a $1 billion, 10-year investment, writes Yeager. Apple is building offices in downtown Reno and a data center next door in Sparks, Nev. In exchange, Nevada gave the company $89 million in a special tax abatement.

Writes Yeager: “While some claim that Nevada is the latest to overpay for the Apple brand name, critics were assured that attracting Apple as the first mover will spark additional investment in the region. William Eadignton, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, said, “They have the potential to act as a catalyst.”

But some fear that Reno is getting only a slice of investment, when what it needs is an entire orchard of Apples. “…All Reno has proven able to attract is their support functions: the back-of-the-house operations that just need to get done. Where and by whom isn’t important, so companies pick wherever they can do them the cheapest. Fortunately or unfortunately, when people think of doing business cheaply, Reno is at the top of their list.”

Indie music. It’s a safe bet you wouldn’t put Reno on a list of the nation’s liveliest indie music capitols. But, Rattigan writes there’s an effort underway at creating a haven for indie artists, part of a bid to retain and attract more young people under age 21. He profiles the non-profit Holland Project, whose motto is, “Art. Music. Culture. By young people, for young people.

The name Holland is a nod to the Vera Project, a similar all ages project based in Seattle, which is named after the Vera Club in Holland (aka The Netherlands). The organization’s music director, Clark Demeritt, says, “Reno has always had a pretty crazy Do-It-Yourself culture … it is a good fit for Reno, because if you want to see something you have to do it yourself.”

Read a Q&A with the Holland Project’s founder here.

Hip new business district. Ask anyone who lives in Reno about its most up and coming neighborhood, and you’re likely to hear about Midtown, which sits across the Truckee River a few blocks south of downtown Reno.

Bessette writes, “The movers and shakers of Midtown have created a cultural center that they compare to the styles of San Luis Obispo, Austin, and Portland, especially within the last two years. In this time, the area that was previously known for hosting rundown and abandoned buildings has exploded with newfound dining, shopping and cultural delights.”

Take a walking tour of Midtown Reno here. Along with Midtown, small businesses have popped up all over Reno, captured in this slideshow by Sawicki.

Downtown movement. Visitors to Reno may not venture out to these places, but they are discovering some of the city’s new restaurants, bars, and developments along the riverfront, where a much-photographed attraction is the bridge where freshly minted divorcees threw their wedding rings into the Truckee.

One leader of the downtown revival is Mark Estee, a well-known California chef who once worked for Paul McCartney and whose Reno restaurant, Campo, bustles all day long with customers. Many come in for the gourmet pizzas he fires in a wood-fueled oven, others simply for an espresso.

Estee told Leehey, ““I want all the businesses looking (for locations) to know that there is opportunity available,” Estee said. “The more the merrier in my book. There is a hunger and a thirst for these things down here. There is clientele available. You just have to come in. You have to engage them.”

Deeper problems. One challenge, however, will be finding solutions for Reno’s abandoned casinos. As Olson reported, some have been converted into condos, while one development, CommRow, is taking a different approach. “Open for a year, it is providing entertainment with a rock climbing wall, restaurants, bars, and a club. General Manager Dean Hanson is hoping a hotel portion will be open in 2013.” Olson writes.

Another, more deep-rooted issue for Reno is its steep unemployment, which has led to homelessness for some, and hurdles for others in remaking their lives. The “no vacancy” signs at some of the city’s motels camouflage who actually lives there: a number of welfare recipients, including their children.

Roth spoke with two teens who are determined to overcome their difficult start, and to area activists helping low-income recidents, addicts and alcoholics. She also profiles Chuck Grimm, a leader in the Pathfinders Children Ministry, whose organization has about 150 children in grades K-12 that attend Pathfinders on Friday nights. Many families live in the rooms of Wonder Lodge Motel.

“The children are fed a meal, play games, do a bible study, and we counsel,” Grimm said. “Kids will do anything to come because one, they enjoy it and two, it gets them out of their home environment.”

Content Source : Forbes

One thought on “Voices of Reno: What Reno-ites Think of Their City”

I’ve lived in Reno since 1995 and come to terms with what Reno is and is not. No, we’re not a metropolis like NYC or even Portland, but we are also not a backwards, conservative, hate-mongering, podunk. Over half of all Renoites are not even from here, so we are a melting pot of a lot of outsiders mostly from California. The City of Reno, unfortunately along with the RSCVA have decided to invest in the past and dumped close to a billion dollars in downtown Reno from the ReTRAC to the Bowling Stadium to the baseball stadium in attempts to increase tourism to downtown Reno with a negative net effect so far. Even before the Great Recession, tourism and gaming was going down. We need to invest in independent, local entrepreneurs like the ones spearheading the Midtown neighbhordhood renaissance and stop getting into debt and bed with corporations and wealthy developers who are only in it for the short-term.

I also happened to write a Reno guide for anyone interested that covers our history as well as our nightlife and special events. Reno already has become well known for our bar crawls and we can capitalize on that instead of dumping hundreds of millions in infrastructure that attracts fewer and fewer dollars.

“Biggest Little City” Reaches For A Bigger Image

Plans to renovate this 1934 Art Deco post office into a high-end shopping mall featuring the likes of Chanel and Yves St. Laurent are the centerpiece of Bernie Carter’s plans to reinvent Reno with more luxury.

 

Not long ago, downtown Reno teemed with locals and tourists alike, no matter if it was Monday or New Year’s Eve. Now, even as slow-burning August weekends roll in, the streets are often found strangely quiet.

The florescent pinks, yellows, and oranges of dated gaming giants that still remain illuminate their fallen brothers–abandoned casinos that tower like mausoleums amongst the living, grim reminders for those still surviving that they, too, are mortal.

“Ten years ago, the casino district was bustling every night,” said Jessica Schneider, owner of kitschy second-hand store and antique mall Junkee, who is also president of the Midtown District. “Now, it’s almost empty except for vagrants and tourists.”

While statewide gambling revenue is actually up 6%, Reno is not the leader. According to the American Gaming Association’s 2011 gaming revenue report, Reno accounted for a mere $663.2 million of the $10.7 billion garnered by the state as a whole. That places Reno 14th nationwide among gaming cities, just in front of New Orleans, a city where only one land-based casino is allowed by state law.

But how is Reno represented to the world besides its gaming reputation, loose liquor laws, and brothels just a stone’s throw away from the city limits? Comedy Central’s hit show Reno 911used Reno’s bawdy image as a punchline in the show’s title itself, and surveys of the nation’s drunkest cities consistently place Reno within the top five, beating the ubiquitous party capital Las Vegas every time. Suicide and unemployment rates also land it on lists of most depressed cities.

Brothels just outside the city limits perpetuate Reno’s stereotype as a place to do things considered improper elsewhere. (Prostitution is legal in the state but not within Las Vegas or Reno’s city boundaries)

“In my honest opinion, I don’t think they’ll ever bring the town back to its former glory,” said Charles “Lucky Eyes” Hamilton, a street performer. He uses his profits to pay for a decrepit, downtown hotel room where he has lived for over six months. “It’s like an injured athlete. You can still come back good, but you’ll never be able to be what you used to be.”

But how does a city distance itself from a reputation that was once its livelihood without disregarding it entirely?

“It’s been beholden to the casinos and developers for too long, but it has more beauty than people give it credit for,” said David Tilly, owner of local record label Dead Camel Records. “There are enough people here trying to change it for the better that I can’t help but think we might succeed.”

The faith of local entrepreneurs, however, is strong. Bernie Carter, president of investment firm Dacole Company, believes that a new image is within reach.

“A higher image needs to be developed for Reno,” Carter said. “Flipping through high-end magazines, the only thing you can buy in Reno is a Mercedes-Benz. There has to be something to attract the wealthy.”

Carter’s plan centers on restructuring a downtown Art Ceco post office constructed in 1934 into a high fashion shopping center. We hopes to lure luxury staples such as Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Hermes. Carter believes so strongly in the ability to reinvent Reno as an upper class destination, he has poured several million dollars into buying vacant buildings and lots throughout the downtown and midtown areas.

Run-down loan offices and car lots along main city streets like Virginia make beautification a challenge.

 

“Walk outside almost any day, look at the clear blue skies, look at the mountains, the river, the recreational activities – the quality of life here is attractive,” Carter said. “How do you overcome people’s negative perceptions? You have to create an attractive environment.”

There is little precedent to assure high-end retailers thinking of putting their business in Reno. A Saks Fifth Avenue outlet ended up high-end and dry last year in Reno-suburb Sparks’ Legends Outlet Mall.

“There are some cities that simply will not be able to attract the same shoppers as Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,” said Patricia Norins, founder of Pinnacle Publishing Group, Inc., a publishing and trade show company dedicated to analysis of the retail industry. “You have to take into account the people who are already there over who it can attract. There are certain higher line stats that determine whether or not a developer will come. Unless there’s a good story or developers are willing to give companies free rent for five years to try it out, retailers simply won’t take the risk.”

With Reno’s median household income at $50,768, its probability for success in the high-end retail market seems low when dwarfed by the income for areas with especially successful flagship stores.  Still, the Upper East Side of Manhattan may boast an average income of over $90,000, but the island as a whole falls to $47,030. Could the super wealthy in Reno and commuters from the wealthy Tahoe buoy a high-end shopping mall enough to keep it in existence?

Bernie Carter gives local businesswoman Jessica Schneider an interview on her local show Reno Style, filmed in her store Junkee, filled with kooky decorations.

Reno has been able to support a few of the upscale businesses it has attracted. Pricey specialty grocery store Whole Foods has been a smashing success.

“We think the Reno store is a great location,” said Adam Smith, Whole Foods Market Executive Coordinator of Design and Construction. “We had been getting requests from residents for years before we found the site, and we have since continued to invest in the store and community.”

But a $10 pound of organic apples are a far cry from a $1,200 handbag, and even if these business were hyper-successful only 15 cents of every dollar spent at a national chain works its way back into the community, as Carter noted. By toying with such high-risk investors, Reno is solidifying its reputation as a gamble, but there is always still the possibility of a lucky bet.

“Somebody had a vision for Las Vegas,” said Norins. “Walt Disney stood in a swamp and said, ‘I have a vision for a theme park.’ People thought they were crazy, too.”

 

 

 

Reinventing Reno’s Abandoned Casinos

The Kings Inn Casino, closed since 1986, has become an eyesore for many Reno citizens.

By Laney Olson

Imagine a sparkling clean Reno bustling with people and a lively nightlife. The sound of cheers as gamers win jackpots on slot machines mixes with construction noise as new casinos seem to be popping up overnight. This was Reno in the 1970s, when it reached its peak of prosperity.
Little did citizens know that developers were quickly overbuilding downtown and just 10 years later those same casinos would turn into shells of what they used to be.

Fast forward to 2012, and picture the Kings Inn, which has been closed since 1986. It’s an abandoned casino with bordered up doors, shattered windows and graffiti covering the walls.

How did Reno get from point A to point B, and how do we recover?

Alicia Barber, director of the University of Nevada Oral History Program, said that downtown Reno began its decline in the late 1980s. Reno’s gaming industry couldn’t compete with the tribal and riverboat casinos that were spreading in other parts of the United States. Casinos all over the city began to close, including the Kings Inn, Fitzgeralds’ Casino & Hotel, the Golden Phoenix and many others.

“It wasn’t unusual in the late ‘90s to see big buildings that had been abandoned for years,” said Barber.  And the conversion of casinos into new buildings and businesses didn’t start until late in this past decade.
One such conversion project is the Comstock Hotel Casino on West Second Street. According to Provisional Community Manager Bob Kenyon, the Comstock opened 1975 during Reno’s boom. The casino closed and the rooms were converted into apartments in 2000.

The Residence at Riverwalk opened in 2006. The residential half of the property has 128 units with only five units still unoccupied. The casino half of the property, which is owned by a different person, remains closed.

“I hope that he sells the casino and turns it into a grocery store or something for community,” said Kenyon.

Norm Robins has been a resident of the Riverwalk condos since they first opened and has been pleased to see the redevelopment of downtown Reno. One of Robins’ favorite aspects about living downtown is the urban walkability. “I can walk to the Century Theaters, the art museum, the Artown events, even my dentist and optometrist,” said Robins.

According to Robins, downtown living attracts empty nesters and young people before the family formation phase. “We form communities of people,” said Robins.
The only downside Robins sees about downtown living is the noise of outdoor events.

“Young people who party until 4 am have different habits than I do,” said Robins.
However, Barber believes if people are going to live downtown, they have to accept urban life, including the noise.

Downtown Reno is still changing and growing, and Barber says it’s still not conducive to living. “There isn’t a grocery store or a strong public transit system,” said Barber.
In many cities, housing development is a response to people wanting to move there. In Reno, the housing development was a response to big abandoned buildings needing to be converted. Therefore, the housing came before the everyday businesses.

“It’s kind of a chicken and egg thing,” said Barber. “Business owners don’t want to put their businesses downtown unless they know they’ll thrive but people don’t want to move downtown until those businesses are there.”

However, Samantha Reveley, sales manager for The Montage, feels differently. “We have UNR students, and professors, even doctors and lawyers living here who are spending money and walking downtown.”

The Montage was formerly the Golden Phoenix. The original structure of the building remains but the inside was gutted and converted into condos. Of The Montage’s 376 units, 211 have sold and 14 are under contract.

Not all abandoned casinos need to be converted into residences, though. CommRow has taken a new approach to revitalizing downtown Reno. Open for a year, it is providing entertainment with a rock climbing wall, restaurants, bars, and a club. General Manager Dean Hanson is hoping a hotel portion will be open in 2013.

Hanson is trying to bring something different to downtown. “We are bringing a new demographic,” said Hanson. “People who don’t normally come downtown.”

CommRow General Manager Dean Hanson is trying to attract a different crowd with a rock climbing wall and several bars and restaurants.

Open for only a year, CommRow has already started to successfully assimilate to downtown life and will be the start of this year’s Zombie Crawl, which will be held Oct. 27.

Hanson believes part of his success is due to the city of Reno. “They are great, easy to work with and very pro business,” said Hanson. “They have a very common sense approach to things.”

Although growth and improvement is not complete in downtown Reno, the area has come a long way. “Ten years ago this place was a hole,” said Kenyon. “But the businesses get along and everybody works together to make this area as nice as possible.”

What Reinventing Reno Is All About

By Micheline Maynard

The future of Reno seems to be on everyone’s mind these days. It’s a city whose focus seems to shift every few generations, from gold mining to the divorce industry and most dominantly, gaming.

But with casinos springing up all over the country, and with the economy dealing Nevada a body blow, Reno is trying to figure out what it can be next. It’s a topic that affects rich and poor, young and old, and one that goes far beyond the city limits. Because as Reno tries to figure out its future, the country is looking at the same dilemma.

For the past two years, I led public media project called Changing Gears. Our team of reporters, Web editors and public insight analysts fanned out across the industrial Midwest, telling stories and talking to people about reinvention. I’ve been continuing that work at Forbes.com, which launched its Reinventing America page earlier this year.

I had never been to Reno before I was invited by Professor Alan Deutschman at the University of Nevada, Reno to serve as a Donald Reynolds Distinguished Visiting Lecturer. Like many people, all I knew of Reno was its history, as a gold rush city, a refuge to get a divorce, and its most recent legacy as a smaller Las Vegas.

During the week I spent here in May, struck me that Reno — and Nevada — are facing many of the same challenges as Detroit, Cleveland, Michigan, Ohio and the places I know best. In June, I wrote about Reno’s future for The Atlantic Cities, and some weeks later, The New York Times followed my story with a similar take.

And, when I was invited to return to Reno this fall, I told Professor Deutschman that I wanted to lead a student project that looks at where Reno will go next.

This is the result: Reinventing Reno. Our team of student journalists has left campus and gone out into the community, armed with notebooks, cameras and recorders. In these stories, you’ll see big names like Apple and Amazon.com. You’ll also hear about efforts to nourish a fledgling indie music scene.

You’ll meet the merchants who are building Midtown Reno into a mini-Portland. There will be stories of young people who are trying to make their lives different than their parents’. You’ll hear about what might be done with the abandoned casinos that blight Reno’s glittery downtown. And much, much more.

Check back over the coming days for our stories on Reinventing Reno. Leave your comments and let us know what else the Reinventing Reno team can be covering.

“Biggest Little City” Reaches For A Bigger Image”

Plans to renovate this 1934 Art Deco post office into a high-end shopping mall featuring the likes of Chanel and Yves St. Laurent are the centerpiece of Bernie Carter’s plans to reinvent Reno with more luxury.

 

Not long ago, downtown Reno teemed with locals and tourists alike, no matter if it was Monday or New Year’s Eve. Now, even as slow-burning August weekends roll in, the streets are often found strangely quiet.

The florescent pinks, yellows, and oranges of dated gaming giants that still remain illuminate their fallen brothers–abandoned casinos that tower like mausoleums amongst the living, grim reminders for those still surviving that they, too, are mortal.

“Ten years ago, the casino district was bustling every night,” said Jessica Schneider, owner of kitschy second-hand store and antique mall Junkee, who is also president of the Midtown District. “Now, it’s almost empty except for vagrants and tourists.”

While statewide gambling revenue is actually up 6%, Reno is not the leader. According to the American Gaming Association’s 2011 gaming revenue report, Reno accounted for a mere $663.2 million of the $10.7 billion garnered by the state as a whole. That places Reno 14th nationwide among gaming cities, just in front of New Orleans, a city where only one land-based casino is allowed by state law.

But how is Reno represented to the world besides its gaming reputation, loose liquor laws, and brothels just a stone’s throw away from the city limits? Comedy Central’s hit show Reno 911used Reno’s bawdy image as a punchline in the show’s title itself, and surveys of the nation’s drunkest cities consistently place Reno within the top five, beating the ubiquitous party capital Las Vegas every time. Suicide and unemployment rates also land it on lists of most depressed cities.

Brothels just outside the city limits perpetuate Reno’s stereotype as a place to do things considered improper elsewhere. (Prostitution is legal in the state but not within Las Vegas or Reno’s city boundaries)

“In my honest opinion, I don’t think they’ll ever bring the town back to its former glory,” said Charles “Lucky Eyes” Hamilton, a street performer. He uses his profits to pay for a decrepit, downtown hotel room where he has lived for over six months. “It’s like an injured athlete. You can still come back good, but you’ll never be able to be what you used to be.”

But how does a city distance itself from a reputation that was once its livelihood without disregarding it entirely?

“It’s been beholden to the casinos and developers for too long, but it has more beauty than people give it credit for,” said David Tilly, owner of local record label Dead Camel Records. “There are enough people here trying to change it for the better that I can’t help but think we might succeed.”

The faith of local entrepreneurs, however, is strong. Bernie Carter, president of investment firm Dacole Company, believes that a new image is within reach.

“A higher image needs to be developed for Reno,” Carter said. “Flipping through high-end magazines, the only thing you can buy in Reno is a Mercedes-Benz. There has to be something to attract the wealthy.”

Carter’s plan centers on restructuring a downtown Art Ceco post office constructed in 1934 into a high fashion shopping center. We hopes to lure luxury staples such as Chanel, Yves St. Laurent, and Hermes. Carter believes so strongly in the ability to reinvent Reno as an upper class destination, he has poured several million dollars into buying vacant buildings and lots throughout the downtown and midtown areas.

Run-down loan offices and car lots along main city streets like Virginia make beautification a challenge.

 

“Walk outside almost any day, look at the clear blue skies, look at the mountains, the river, the recreational activities – the quality of life here is attractive,” Carter said. “How do you overcome people’s negative perceptions? You have to create an attractive environment.”

There is little precedent to assure high-end retailers thinking of putting their business in Reno. A Saks Fifth Avenue outlet ended up high-end and dry last year in Reno-suburb Sparks’ Legends Outlet Mall.

“There are some cities that simply will not be able to attract the same shoppers as Fifth Avenue in Manhattan,” said Patricia Norins, founder of Pinnacle Publishing Group, Inc., a publishing and trade show company dedicated to analysis of the retail industry. “You have to take into account the people who are already there over who it can attract. There are certain higher line stats that determine whether or not a developer will come. Unless there’s a good story or developers are willing to give companies free rent for five years to try it out, retailers simply won’t take the risk.”

With Reno’s median household income at $50,768, its probability for success in the high-end retail market seems low when dwarfed by the income for areas with especially successful flagship stores.  Still, the Upper East Side of Manhattan may boast an average income of over $90,000, but the island as a whole falls to $47,030. Could the super wealthy in Reno and commuters from the wealthy Tahoe buoy a high-end shopping mall enough to keep it in existence?

Bernie Carter gives local businesswoman Jessica Schneider an interview on her local show Reno Style, filmed in her store Junkee, filled with kooky decorations.

Reno has been able to support a few of the upscale businesses it has attracted. Pricey specialty grocery store Whole Foods has been a smashing success.

“We think the Reno store is a great location,” said Adam Smith, Whole Foods Market Executive Coordinator of Design and Construction. “We had been getting requests from residents for years before we found the site, and we have since continued to invest in the store and community.”

But a $10 pound of organic apples are a far cry from a $1,200 handbag, and even if these business were hyper-successful only 15 cents of every dollar spent at a national chain works its way back into the community, as Carter noted. By toying with such high-risk investors, Reno is solidifying its reputation as a gamble, but there is always still the possibility of a lucky bet.

“Somebody had a vision for Las Vegas,” said Norins. “Walt Disney stood in a swamp and said, ‘I have a vision for a theme park.’ People thought they were crazy, too.”

Midtown Revival Lends Culture, Community to Reno Economy

Dreamer’s Cafe, a coffee and sandwich shop, recently opened on the corner of St. Lawrence Avenue and South Virginia Street.

By Chanelle Bessette

For many people, it’s a challenge to separate Reno from its long history of legalized gaming, brothels, and quick divorce turnarounds, or its current notoriety as the setting for a campy cop comedy and as a pit stop on the way to Burning Man. But for its residents and recent visitors, a wave of change for the city is becoming more and more apparent, much like an optometrist adjusting lenses for a patient until they can see clearly.

A significant contributor to this wave of change has been an ongoing development project known as the Midtown District, which is located just south of the Truckee River and Reno’s downtown area.

The movers and shakers of Midtown have created a cultural center that they compare to the styles of San Luis Obispo, Austin, and Portland, especially within the last two years. In this time, the area that was previously known for hosting rundown and abandoned buildings has exploded with newfound dining, shopping and cultural delights.

The Midtown District, which is currently composed of approximately two dozen businesses, was primarily the brainchild of Jessica Schneider (who runs Junkee, a popular recycled clothing and thrift store) and Hillary Schieve (who owns two consignment clothing businesses and is currently running for Reno City Council). They decided to use their entrepreneurial clout to put together a collection of small businesses that would later be known as Midtown.

“We had to rally the other businesses,” said Schieve (pronounced “she-vee”). “At first they laughed at us … So we decided that we would come up with our marketing plan. We made a commercial. We had [Schneider’s] store, and my store and already some great dining. We told everyone to come down to Midtown. It really changed the energy.”

Small businesses have become attracted to the area at an exponential rate, all seeking to fill a unique niche in the Reno community. Wedge, a locally-owned cheese shop, has recently opened its doors and received a warm reception from the community.

“What we get is a lot of people who say they’ve just moved from the Bay Area, and they’re excited that there’s a cheese shop in Reno,” said Pete Burge, co-owner of Wedge. “We’re adding another layer. We’re adding another dimension to the environment that we live in.”

Wedge’s mission has been to make a wide variety of cheese products and knowledge available to its customers. People will come in looking for something that’s a fairly typical cheese, like Gruyere or Brie.

“They might walk out with Holy Cow or Chimney Rock or Bent River,” said Burge, “which are a variety of different products from producers. It’s retail diversity … It’s the same thing as a vibrant music scene or a deep art culture.”

Midtown targets a demographic that is composed primarily of young professionals who seek a culture that is heavy in art, food and beverage. Elaborate street art murals painted on brick walls peek out around every corner. Midtown merchants discuss their trades and products at length with their patrons. Cafe chairs and tables allow customers to enjoy watching sidewalk traffic while sipping on a glass of wine or a latte.

“[Midtown] has its own identity,” said Burge. “It’s an identity that is growing … We think of ourselves as one piece. It’s a puzzle, in a way. We’re trying to replicate an area or a marketplace where people have multiple reasons to come down. Whether it be for retail or for dining or for the fact that they like the vibe … Local is definitely one of the flavors that we want to encourage and be part of.”

Dreamer’s Cafe, also one of the newest additions to the area, has only been open since July 30. After closing his downtown Reno location two years ago for personal reasons, owner Jonathan Bascom embraced the earning potential of a new Midtown location.

“We’re part of the family,” said Bascom. “With the property that I’m in, the building owner’s very specific that we all work in collaboration, not competition, so that we’re not starving out the next door neighbor.”

The cultural milieu of Midtown, with its community-oriented center of commerce added to the mix, has drawn fresh entrepreneurial talent that bodes well for the local Reno economy.

Can Apple Lead To An Orchard Of New Reno Investment?

The announcement in late June of Apple Inc.’s plans to build business offices in downtown Reno and a new data center in nearby Sparks, Nev., came as welcome news to a region battling 12 percent unemployment, a severely depressed housing market, and a general lack of economic direction. The announcement promised $1 billion of investment by the company over the next ten years and new jobs for the city.

In exchange for this commitment, Nevada offered $89 million in a special tax abatement to the company. While some claim that Nevada is the latest to overpay for the Apple brand name, critics were assured that attracting Apple as the first mover will spark additional investment in the region. William Eadignton, a professor of economics at the University of Nevada, Reno, said, “They have the potential to act as a catalyst.”

That first mover is often the hardest, and most expensive, to get, but once in place, others will follow. And eventually, after reaching what Eadington called “critical mass,” the system reinforces itself. “When you get a lot of people with a certain kind of background, you’re going to get a lot more people with that kind of background,” he said.

While getting Apple to invest in the region is a significant coup, it’s not as if Apple decided to move its headquarters to Reno. Reno just got a slice of the apple, and it’s not a particularly glamorous slice either. Apple will use Nevada as a place to store its data just as Amazon, WalMart, Barnes & Noble, Patagonia and other big name retailers use it to store their inventory.

Getting big names has never been a problem for Reno thanks to its business-friendly tax structure.

However, all Reno has proven able to attract is their support functions: the back-of-the-house operations that just need to get done. Where and by whom isn’t important, so companies pick wherever they can do them the cheapest. Fortunately or unfortunately, when people think of doing business cheaply, Reno is at the top of their list.

Photograph from the Tessera District of Reno where Apple plans to locate its business offices.

Nevada’s government and business community do everything they can to promote this image. The Economic Development Agency of Western Nevada proudly proclaims that Nevada doesn’t tax corporate or personal income and has no franchise, unitary, inventory, inheritance, or estate taxes. The Nevada Governor’s Office of Economic Development likes to brag that, “We (Nevada) are number one among the 50 states for economic development programs in terms of job creation, retention, and training (Good Jobs First)…number one for new business launches (Kaufman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity); and #1 for export adaptability and growth (Ball State University).”

These statistics would lead one to believe that there is no better place for a business than Nevada. If this is the case, what’s with all the unemployment? Why aren’t Apple’s Tim Cook and Amazon’s Jeff Bezos shopping around in the bargain real estate market? Why can Reno only seem to attract support functions of businesses and not the whole business?

Perhaps it has to do with a few of Nevada’s other number one rankings.

Politifact recently confirmed that Nevada is number one in rates of unemployment, foreclosure, violent crime, personal bankruptcy, and divorce of all states in the nation. Kids Count, a part of the Annie E. Casey Foundation, reports that Nevada has the highest percentage of students not graduating high school on time and ranked Nevada last in overall public education in its annual data book. The future doesn’t look much brighter as Nevada’s higher education system has had to make cutbacks and raise tuition to deal with a 14 percent decrease in state funding since 2010.

Upper management of large corporations have proven that they’re more than happy to sign off on a new data center or warehouse in Nevada, just so long as they’re not expected to spend much time there. Dennis Donovan of Wadley Donovan Gutshaw Consulting, a firm specializing in corporate site selection, writes in The Headquarters Relocation Challenge that companies need to find balance between multiple considerations including: ease of travel, quality of life, national recruiting, labor market, office space, and business operating costs. The above statistics imply that Nevada is out of balance.

When determining public policy, one must answer the questions:

  • Which comes first, the good schools or the good jobs?
  • Will reducing crime increase business investment or will increasing business investment reduce crime?
  • Should Nevada improve its quality of life to attract businesses or attract businesses to improve its quality of life?

When Nevada’s leaders offer an $89 million tax abatement to the most valuable company of all time while also cutting spending from education, it appears that they are betting on the latter approach to getting Nevada back into balance.

Let us hope for Nevada’s sake that this strategy works. In the meantime, Nevada’s schools will just have to make do with less.

A Q&A With The Holland Project’s Britt Curtis

Britt Curtis is the director of the Holland Project. Behind her is the mural that is painted onto the side of their headquarters.

 

By Nick Rattigan

Britt Curtis left home when she was 17 to attend the University of Washington, where she studied art and English. Today, she is the director of the Holland Project, an all-ages art and music nonprofit located in Reno.

 

Why did you start Holland?

 

I started it with a friend of mine, Joe Ferguson, who lived in Reno and ran a DIY record shop. He was pretty involved in an all-ages and punk rock community. I didn’t live here at the time, but I was working for similar project in Seattle (the Vera Project) and saw how important and wonderful and amazing that project was up there. Having been a teenager in this town, I always thought if only I had a project like this how different my life would have been growing up. It was always a goal of Joe’s to do something like this here. With the model in place from what I learned in Seattle and his energy and activism here, we were able to start and form what came to be Holland.

Why is the Holland Project important to Reno?

These sorts of projects are important nationwide, not just to Reno. But specifically to Reno because we have a reputation of being an over-21 town; also sort of a little bit of a drought geographically of art and culture and more independent alternative sources of entertainment.

Would you be able to compare the Vera Project to the Holland Project?

It is just a different scene. Seattle is so different. It has a giant music community that is a major economic force. It has a ton of independent media. It has alternative newspapers, it has independent radio station, it has college radio stations. It is just a very different supportive community. It also has a lot more money than we have here. So it is just a different ball game. But some things are very similar. I think just DIY projects in nature across the nation all have similarities and all sort of face the same struggles and obstacles. Vera took three years before even hosting their first show. They were battling legal stuff, political stuff, and noise ordinances. That is the kind of deal when you are working with teens. It is different because we are different places, but the heart and soul of what we do, and why we do it is the same.

Do you think that Holland can grow to be something like the Vera project?

Yes and no.  Some aspects are already on par.  Our gallery is state of the art and along the caliber of the shows we get. They are just very different in terms of funding and in terms of the music community that supports them, but you know I think we already are in some respects. And whether we get more funding or are bigger, only time will tell.

What is the goal of the Holland Project?

I have always believed in Reno. People involved in Holland inherently always have too. They are people who are super involved and are active, and believe in their community, and in fostering that sense of community of supporting each other through music and art. Whether it is small business stuff or design stuff or whatever.

Reno always goes in waves. When a bunch of new people come and are excited and new, things are starting. Then a lot of people leave again and there is a lull. No new bands and no new projects, but then all of the sudden a wave again. We started around the same time as our sister or brother organizations the Coop and the Bike Project. And now we are all 5 and 6 years old and making it happen, which is an amazing testament to this community and the people who are working for cool things. And there is a whole crop of new stuff that has surfaced in the mean time.

Is Midtown improving Reno’s culture?

It is cool to have a new neighborhood. It is probably more business and retail-oriented. More bars and restaurants, and more life, which is cool. It will be great for Good Luck McBeth, which is down there now. The midtown art walk has been good for local business. I don’t know how supportive it is for local artists, but for the businesses it is amazing.  But to just have a new place for people to come and walk around and congregate is nice.

Is Reno reinventing itself?

Reno reinvents itself all the time. It always has a very specific feel and vibe. Clark hears it all the time from bands from out of town and I have friends who come and say that Reno has a very special flavor to it that is unfound anywhere else. It will always be true to itself in that way. But I do think it is always reinventing itself.  There are people who are consistently surprised what cool restaurants are here, what great band they are hearing, the caliber of the artist.

Can Reno Become An Indie Music Capital?

Clark Demeritt is the music director for the show space of the Holland Project.

By Nick Rattigan

Reno is and will forever be “the biggest little city in the world” — containing all of the beauties of a large city, but never having to capacity to fulfill it. Then, there is the Holland Project, whose motto is, “Art. Music. Culture. By young people, for young people.

 

The Holland Project is an all ages art and music nonprofit geared towards youth. Its headquarters are located at 140 Vesta St., which used to house an old biker store called Renegade Classics. The building is now a combination art gallery, a venue for local and national touring bands, and a developing workshop room to hold a variety of different do it yourself (DIY) seminars.

 

The name Holland is a nod to the Vera Project, a similar all ages project based in Seattle, which is named after the Vera Club in Holland (aka The Netherlands). The organization’s music director, Clark Demeritt, in charge of booking bands for the show space, is a living, breathing example of Reno’s reinvention.

 

“Reno has always had a pretty crazy Do-It-Yourself culture … it is a good fit for Reno, because if you want to see something you have to do it yourself,” says Demeritt.

 

His boss is Britt Curtis, who moved back to her hometown of Reno in 2006 from Seattle  specifically to start the Holland Project. Influenced by her experience with the Vera Project, Curtis has been running Holland for five years.

 

Curtis and Demeritt are trying to bring a creative outlet and artistic accessibility for alternative lifestyles in Reno, and they are not alone. Their sister organizations, the Great Basin Food Coop and the Reno Bike Project are also geared towards creating an alternative culture for Reno. This is a scene that steps in the shadow of Austin or Portland, but currently lacks the same community support.

 

“DIY projects in nature across the nation all have similarities and all face the same struggles and obstacle,” says Curtis, “Holland is different because Reno is a different place, but the heart and soul of what we do, and why we do it is the same.”

 

Along with the Holland Project, there has been a reinvention of the culture Reno’s midtown area. The district has brought in locally focused food establishments, bars and shops to cater to the over 21 culture that already exists in Reno. Although Midtown is improving the culture, there is still an entire generation of young people with no creative outlet and nowhere to go.

 

But in the fight for Reno’s culture between an unadulterated nightlife and alternative cultural mecca, the Holland Project holds its grounds and believes in its cause.

 

“Every once in a while, it feels like a necessity for someone to step up and get the kind of bands that are getting to come through town,” says Demeritt, “No matter what, somebody will do it, but right now it seems like I’m that somebody.”