RENO -- Three years after the historic Mapes Hotel was imploded, the Reno City Council finally has a plan for the prime riverfront site.
Council members have decided to convert the downtown property along the Truckee River into a public plaza decorated with fountains and trees.
Plans also call for the construction of a riverwalk and ice-skating rink. The property now is home to a seasonal public ice-skating rink.
Council members acknowledged public criticism over how the site has remained empty since the Mapes was blown up on Jan. 30, 2000 over the objections of historic preservationists.
"We go and acquire a piece of property and then it remains vacant and an eyesore for years. We need to do something now," Councilman Pierre Hascheff said.
Plans for the area include narrowing Virginia Street to two lanes from the river to Second Street and closing First Street in front of the Cal Neva tower, which would be converted to a new city hall.
Councilman Dave Aiazzi said an international competition among architects to design the plaza would draw national attention to Reno.
Built in 1947, the Mapes ushered in the modern era of gambling. It was the first building in the nation constructed to house a casino, hotel and live entertainment under one roof.
It was the place to be seen during its glory years in the '50s and '60s, when entertainers such as Mae West, the Marx Brothers and Sammy Davis Jr. performed in its top-floor Sky Room.
Mayor Bob Cashell also is pushing the council to make a quick decision on whether to replace the Virginia Street bridge near the Mapes lot or to rehabilitate it to keep its historical significance.
Under preliminary plans to keep the bridge, the city would have to leave empty 40 feet on either side of it to allow room for floodwater.
That would force demolition of the historic Masonic building and eat up development space on the Mapes lot.
Councilwoman Jessica Sferrazza wants to try to keep the bridge. Other council members want a report on the pros and cons of each option.