Downtown redevelopment taken a step further

Photo by Rick GunnPictured above is the empty lot just north of the old Post Office building at Roop and Washington.

Photo by Rick GunnPictured above is the empty lot just north of the old Post Office building at Roop and Washington.

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This is the second in a series on a new economic development plan for Carson City.

The Economic Vitality Strategic Plan isn't all new. It compiles many ideas scattered around Carson City among other planning groups and reports and includes ideas that are already happening.

This is especially true of the recommendations for downtown Carson City.

The city created a redevelopment district for downtown in 1986. Since then, the city and state have invested more than $100 million to revitalize and expand the Capitol Complex and adjacent facilities.

In addition, about $15 million in private, city, state and federal funds have gone to a range of improvements in the downtown corridor that has gone a long way to reverse the negative impression of the downtown of the past.

More work needs to be done.

The Economic Strategic Planning Committee brought its muscle to the job through the Downtown Task Force.

Its research included a look with new eyes at a survey conducted by the Redevelopment Authority Citizens Committee on the downtown.

The survey of 400 residents indicated the main reasons they stop downtown are for business and to dine. Residents also place high value on its historical features.

Unlike the pre-redevelopment years, locals now feel safe walking downtown, according to the survey. Improvements they'd like to see relate to parking, traffic and shopping.

The task force approached the process with a broader definition of "downtown," taking the entire Highway 395 corridor from the intersection with Stewart Street north to Long Street.

The task force took a close look at the existing patchwork of land-use patterns and ways to make them more sensible.

Looking at research and surveys already compiled, plus a fresh view at downtown land-use, the committee came up with seven general objectives.

-- Strengthen architectural heritage and cultivate cultural heritage through such things as special events, especially those with an historic angle.

-- Improve traffic circulation. Methods could include linking areas of activity with pedestrian and alternative types of transportation.

Another partial solution would be to close unneeded streets. That would also reduce cross-traffic slowdowns and create superblocks for development and parking.

"Superblocks are not a new idea," City Manager John Berkich said. "We did some work some years ago (for such things as parking).

"Our blocks are not the typical length of city blocks. They're shorter. We'd have better traffic and land use if some were abandoned. We've done it to create places to allow building and for parking."

-- Improve parking. Besides adding new parking, improving the public's perception of parking availability with improvements to signs and directions to parking.

-- Land-use improvements could provide incentives for attracting development targeted to the needs of the specific site.

Among lots not being used effectively is the now-empty lot off East William Street where the Virginia & Truckee Railroad roundhouse once stood.

"The task force identified it as a location for development of retail shops around a railroad theme," Berkich said. "It's not a new idea."

-- Work with the Carson City Downtown Business Association on ideas for business retention and activities to support those businesses. Types of businesses identified as best suited for downtown include specialty retail, dining, and entertainment.

-- Continue to promote Carson-Tahoe Hospital as a regional medical center. And, when the hospital moves to the north end of town, assist with filling the buildings and offices left emptied.

-- Recognize state government as a major influence on the downtown and work together on the economic success of the area.

"We're the capitol of the state of Nevada," said Ron Weisinger, executive director of the Northern Nevada Development Authority and participant on the Economic Strategic Planning Committee. "We can play upon that. We should never take state government for granted."


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