Carson City is spending up to $25,000 to find out what the fairgrounds may be worth to a commercial developer.
A consultant hired by Carson City is working to determine if commercial development of the fairgrounds is feasible.
Consultant David Gates and Associates, a land planning and landscape architecture firm from Danville, Calif., is working under a $25,000 contract to design conceptual layouts to determine if the fairgrounds can host enough commercial space to make selling the property viable.
"How does one put retail uses on the site in a usable, beautiful, special way?" Gates said. "What we say is we're land planners. This is what you can do to make this site special."
Gates said his firm will provide a "rule book" for potential fairground developers to consider for a "positive, constructive" development.
Andy Burnham, city development services director, said the city staff members have met with "very nice, large, quality developers we think would provide some real exciting development to us."
City officials are mum on the identity of the developers, however. Burnham said they've asked to remain anonymous.
Commercial development pressures have prompted city officials to consider relocating the park and fairgrounds, prompting protests from throughout the community.
Mayor Ray Masayko gave a 90-day deadline Aug. 2 to work out options for the fairgrounds, including a suitable relocation site and a definition of potential development at the current site.
The portion of the fairgrounds for sale has been identified as the land east of the Events Center and south of Clear Creek. Fuji Park, from the events center west and north of Clear Creek, will be improved.
When city supervisors decided to pursue the commercial development of the fairgrounds Aug. 2, Supervisor Robin Williamson asked that developers show the city what they would build on the site.
"My first concern was if we're going to be studying the relocation, we want to make sure we do that with the idea the space is usable and attractive to a prospective developer," Williamson said.
Williamson said she didn't care as much who the tenants would be as what the proposed development could look like.
"I want something attractive that incorporates the stream, not an L-shaped minimall with a parking lot," she said. "That's not an addition to our community."
Burnham said the city is committed to restoring Clear Creek, and Gates will design a development proposal around the creek. Gates said many developers would view the creek as a problem.
"It's just not typical," Gates said. "Your average developers would like to put the creek in a pipe and park on it. We're saying celebrate the creek. Most developers are going to say it's a problem. At the same time, if they like the property well enough and the community, they will work with you."
Carson City residents likely will not see the development proposals until the entire fairgrounds relocation is again discussed by supervisors in October.
City plans for the property include what officials call a "lifestyle center." Retail broker Gary Johnson, senior vice president of Colliers International, said lifestyle centers are composed of stores in a complex that lack a major anchor such as Wal-Mart or Target. The centers, such as Redfield Promenade at the corner of Kietzke Lane and Virginia Street in Reno, attract a middle- to high-income shopper.
While Carson may lack enough of such shoppers to support a typical lifestyle center, its tourism trade and proximity to a more affluent Lake Tahoe are enough to draw such a center, Johnson said.
Highly sought-after tenants in such centers include "really popular" stores such as Borders, Bed Bath and Beyond, Crate and Barrel and restaurants like Claim Jumper.
The processes for proposed fairgrounds development and a new fairground site are occurring simultaneously.
Steve Kastens, city parks and recreation director, said the Parks and Recreation Commission will review potential fairground sites Sept. 18. Sites under consideration include the three east Carson City sites rejected by parks commissioners in March as relocation sites. Kastens said those sites are under review again because the plans have been scaled back with less grassy area.
Vacant space just east of Edmonds Park in southeast Carson is also under consideration. The site is home to a BMX track, which can be relocated, Kastens said. Property near the Nevada State Prison off Bigelow Drive is also a possibility.