RENO — The city of Reno is considering a plan to ban any new casinos or unrestricted-gambling licenses on the north edge of downtown as part of an effort to redevelop the mile-long corridor linking the city to the campus of the University of Nevada, Reno.
The proposal expected to go before the city’s Regional Transportation Commission later this month is part of a broader plan to expand the university’s boundaries to the south across U.S. Interstate 80.
Existing holders of gambling licenses within those boundaries would be allowed to continue to operate — including the Circus Circus hotel-casino, but no new ones would be granted going forward.
Fred Turnier, the city’s director of community development, said the goal is to help increase the university’s visibility from downtown.
“Coming from I-80, you can’t see the university so this is about having a more signature aspect to the gateway,” Turnier told the Reno Gazette-Journal. “We want to create a university feel for the area.”
The proposed boundary amendment would stretch down Virginia Street as far south as Fifth Street, stopping just short of the Silver Legacy and Eldorado hotel-casinos. If successful, proponents hope the change will encourage new development at UNR’s doorstep, including new restaurants, retail and housing.
“If you already have a gaming use, you’re vested and can continue unless you abandon that use,” Turnier said. “If Circus Circus ever decided to abandon its gaming use, for example, then you have potential student housing development for that site.”
The proposed boundary amendment also aims to consolidate UNR’s master plan with ongoing plans by the city and the Regional Transportation Commission. The commission could consider the amendment as early as Oct. 9 and recommend it to the city Planning Commission.
The proposal to eliminate gambling use in the gateway was made by consultants hired by UNR for its master plan, which the university has to do every 10 years. The regional center and gateway represents a paradigm shift from the previous plan, which relied on acquiring property and redeveloping it for university use.
“We’re not necessarily looking to acquire land south of I-80 ... but we’re interested in public-private partnerships,” said Heidi Gansert, executive director of external relations for UNR president Marc Johnson. “There are many parcels that have been sitting vacant there for quite a while so we hope we can help in the revitalization of that area.”
Priorities for the university include student housing and services. Although UNR has almost 20,000 students and 4,200 employees, there aren’t a lot of services that cater to them in the gateway area, Gansert said.
Housing for students and staff is especially important, said Richard Bartholet, president of the Regional Alliance for Downtown.
“In addition to improving their front door, they’re going to have to build more housing given the growth rate of the university,” Bartholet said. “Unless you want to build more parking garages, you’ll want housing to be within walking and biking distances.”