Former Cafe Del Rio building likely to come down in February

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The former Cafe Del Rio building will probably be demolished in the next couple weeks and replaced with a small park.

The wood-shingled structure at Carson and Fourth streets suffered substantial damage in an April 19, 1998, fire at the vacant garage next door.

City planners are expected next Friday to approve plans submitted by property owner Donald Bernard Sr. to set up a temporary small, landscaped space on the building's site.

Once the interim plan is approved, Bernard may apply for a demolition permit, which could be issued within a week.

"Our whole goal is to get that terrible building demolished as quickly as possible," Bernard said.

The building last housed the Cafe Del Rio, now one block to the north inside the St. Charles Hotel. The Southwest-themed restaurant was in the building for two years. Previous tenants were Mia's Swiss Restaurant, now in Dayton, and Hunter's Lodge.

Stopping short of calling the replacement a park, Bernard said the landscaped setting would be in place within two months of the demolition. There will be some benches, plants and wall elements from the building will be used as paving stones.

"We're going to create a plaza effect with the planters," said Scott Fahrenbruch, city parks superintendent.

Annual and perennials plants and some small trees - all in planters - will make up the landscaping.

"This will be an interim project," said Walt Sullivan, Carson City's community development director. "We don't want to put long-lasting landscaping in because it's all coming out."

Sullivan and city senior planner Rob Joiner will likely finalize Bernard's demolition and interim improvement plan Feb. 4. Bernard already has permission to demolish the building but not until an interim use is approved.

The little park will measure only 80 feet by 35 feet, the dimensions of the Cafe Del Rio building.

"It's not going to be made to pull people in," Bernard said. "It will be made to look pretty. My main goal is to make that block as attractive and as vibrant as I can make it."

Bernard said once the demolition-and-landscaping project is done, he may rehabilitate the buildings next to the Old Corner Bar that housed Encore Consignments and the Assembly Room bar at the time of the garage fire. They were also damaged in the fire set by two teenage boys.

The garage debris were cleared from the site soon after the fire.

Bernard's ultimate vision calls for filling most of that block with an office building with ground-floor retail shops. Bernard owns about 70 percent of the block bounded by Carson, Curry, Fourth and Fifth streets.

He has had a series of conversations with state and city officials about a proposed office. The state has potential interest in leasing office space and city officials want to make sure retail sales are not left out.

"Everything being even," Bernard said, "if we had a choice, we would attract a private office building that would tie in with some shops that would bring people downtown."

But don't expect to see an office structure across Carson Street from the Legislative Building any time soon. Bernard said even if the design for such an office started today it would likely take a couple years for a building to be in place.


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