The Carson Mall won't be torn down and Carson City has many other sites that can be developed into buildings with a mix of housing and retail stores, a mall representative said.
A panel of planning experts at an Urban Land Institute conference Oct. 25 in Las Vegas said the city had a good plan for its downtown, but recommended the city tear down the Carson Mall and build an "urban village" of trendy shops and affordable housing on the 12-acre property.
The city needs more land and the building would be a good place for an impressive development on the south end of downtown, according to Richard Perlmutter, a land institute panel member and head of a Maryland development firm.
"You don't want to put all your eggs in one basket," he said at the meeting, "but you want to have a big enough basket to get people's attention."
But the Carson Mall is an "integral part" of the city and will look great when its $12-million renovation is done in five years, said Kevin Ray, a representative of Eureka, Calif.-based Carrington Co., which owns the mall.
"If the city wants mixed-use," Ray said, "I'm driving down Carson Street right now, why don't they work on all these buildings?"
The renovation will double the number of stores by adding about 20 restaurants and retail shops. The renovation will also redesign the facade.
This will be the first renovation for the building since it was built in 1964 by Francis Carrington, the head of the company.
"Sure, it would be easier to have everyone leave and tear everything down," Ray said, "but that's kind of short-sighted because you're not considering the small-business owner."
City officials didn't say much after the panel proposed razing the mall, though Joe McCarthy, city economic redevelopment manager, did say it was currently a "class D" mall.
City Supervisor Robin Williamson said the idea to tear down the mall was the panel's idea alone.
"That is none of our business," she said. "Whatever he (Francis Carrington) wants to do with his property, we will try to work with him."
The mall renovation, however, probably won't increase sales-tax revenue for the city, she said.
Williamson and other city officials, such as McCarthy, are pushing for a project they say will increase sales-tax revenue, about $300,000 a year.
Supporters of the project want to give the owner of the old Wal-Mart building in South Carson a total of $4.5 million in incentives. The first $2 million was already agreed upon to help the owner, Robert Rothe, bring in Burlington Coat Factory. Supervisors will discuss a $2.5 million tax rebate at their meeting Nov. 15 to help bring in Sportsman's Warehouse, which is considering opening a store in either Carson City or Douglas County.
McCarthy said the project would give the city more money to support mixed-used projects and that he does not support tearing down the mall.
"We are in support of his (Francis Carrington's) future development plans and we will try to help him, especially if he starts looking at mixed-use or starts bringing additional plans to the side," McCarthy said.
Ray said the city needs to consider small businesses more when it spends its redevelopment funds.
"I think we need to balance the desire to have a large-scale success with creating a sense of community that would be the center of our town - where the Carson Mall is," he said. "People want a gathering place, and to have a gathering place you need small boutiques, small restaurants, small shops. People don't gather at a Wal-Mart or a Burlington Coat Factory."
• Contact reporter Dave Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.