Vacant downtown shop getting fixed up

A new roof for the former Encore Consignments building could bring business back to 408 S. Carson St. for the first time since a fire damaged four buildings on that block two years ago.

Donald Bernard Sr., who owns all four properties, last week started work on the Encore roof. New electrical, heating, air conditioning and plumbing lines are planned for the interior. Bernard figures the building could be ready for a renter in three or four weeks.

If the Encore building rents successfully, Bernard also wants to fix up the neighboring former Assembly Room building at 410 S. Carson St. Both buildings have been empty since suffering smoke damage and some fire damage in an April 19, 1998, fire accidentally set by two boys.

The fire destroyed a vacant 1940s garage next to Encore and damaged one wall of the former Cafe Del Rio building at the corner of Carson and Fourth streets. Bernard had the Del Rio building demolished March 17, 2000, and replaced with a makeshift park.

Sandy Weise, owner of Mill Station Enterprises, tore down Del Rio and now is working on Encore.

The fate of the Assembly/Encore pair has been uncertain until Bernard decided to fix them up. Instead of tearing them down, Bernard decided he wanted those properties to generate some income while he thinks about the future of the rest of the block across from the Legislative Building.

Bernard owns about 70 percent of the block bounded by Carson, Curry, Fourth and Fifth streets.

Since the fire, Bernard has considered filling most of the block with a multi-story office building with retail on the ground floor, he said. That idea, however, has not moved ahead.

"There's no big deals in the wind," Bernard said.

Bernard said other projects kept him from dealing with the 400 block of South Carson Street until now. He did not say how much money he's putting into the rehabilitation.

"It seems to be close to economically feasible at this point," Bernard said. "I hope it will make economic sense. We'll see how things work out from a rental point of view."

The structural damage to the Assembly Room and Encore Consignments buildings was minimal and confined to the attic in the northeast corner of the Encore building, civil engineer Keith Shaffer wrote in a structural evaluation report.

Shaffer, of Uni-Tec Consulting Engineers in Carson City, added that based on observations and the structural analysis, the general structural integrity of the buildings was not compromised by the fire damage.

The Bernard block sits in the heart of Carson City's redevelopment area. Bernard's work encourages redevelopment director Rob Joiner.

"Putting something back to viable use, whether short-term or long-term, it's great," Joiner said. "I'm thrilled to hear he doesn't want to demolish them. I'm encouraged by the fact he wants to put something in there. He gets a return. We get a return - store fronts."

Joiner said Bernard was receptive to the idea of having a mural painted on the north wall of the Encore building. Joiner said he asked Joe McCarthy at the Brewery Arts Center if any students would want to paint a mural.

"I want to get a mural on there," Joiner said. "That would be great."

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