Downtown has its dark spots, but light is coming
October 9, 2006
To many shoppers, downtown Carson City is a reminder of the past, and not just because of the stately historic buildings.
Dark windows and old signs are tombs to the economically departed: a family-owned steak restaurant, a pawn shop, a gift store, revolving restaurant tenants inside a historic hotel.
Some are concerned that if changes aren’t made to downtown Carson City soon, they’ll be the next to go. One longtime Telegraph Square business owner is set to flip her sign to “Closed” – permanently.
Even though it may seem a little dark down there, local commercial real-estate experts who work in the district say the number of vacancies isn’t unusual for the area.
Rebirth is coming with two long-vacant locations gaining tenants that are expected to attract tourists and locals downtown.
Why Tom waited
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Vacant for two years, the 1929 Sweetland building has a central location on Carson Street near several hot spots, including Garibaldi’s restaurant and across the street from Stew’s sports bar and restaurant.
Many have wanted it, but Tom Johnson said he didn’t want to lease it to just anyone. The Sperry Van Ness broker, who owns the building, wanted a financially viable business, preferably a restaurant that would add night life. He started talks with Alan George and his wife, CaiE, in January.
CaiE’s Oriental Café will open in mid-November at 301 N. Carson St., Johnson said.
A building farther north at 107 E. Telegraph St. has a similar story. After two years on the market, a buyer has committed to the former location of Heiss’ Steak & Seafood House.
Jeanne and Jose Ramirez, of Carson City, will transform the building into a vintage furniture store.
It’s in a key downtown location off Carson Street, behind Java Joe’s. Ramirez plans to open the store Dec. 1.
Listing agent Andie Wilson, commercial sales agent for Coldwell Banker Commercial Premier Brokers, said she showed the building about 60 times. It went in and out of escrow several times.
“If the owner can handle the vacancy there is definitely a benefit to the city, economy and community in waiting for that perfect tenant, but not every owner can absorb a two-year vacancy,” she said.
Six available store fronts, most advertising for sale or lease, are available on or just off Carson Street downtown.
Although a vacancy rate for downtown hasn’t been computed since 1997, Wilson said she believes the number of available properties is not out of line with the rest of the city.
“It may be more visible because we walk downtown and some businesses have been there so long,” she said.
Gary Moreira, adviser with Grubb & Ellis/Nevada Commercial Group, has had a number of inquiries on 210 S. Carson St. He said having a few vacancies downtown is “the nature of the mom-and-pop business.”
Slowing traffic by narrowing Carson Street to one lane, which would also make it more pedestrian friendly, when the next phase of the Carson City bypass opens, could do a lot of help the local businesses, he said.
The beauty will close her doors
A directional sign at the corner of Telegraph and Curry streets points visitors to 14 different businesses, six of them are no longer open.
Telegraph Square business owner Carol Bevers said she is worried that efforts to make downtown more tourist friendly won’t happen fast enough for Tea 4-2. That includes beautification, better signs and the street narrowing.
“I don’t know if it’ll come soon enough for all of use to survive down here,” she said.
Just down the street from her is Beauty & the Beads, where it has been for 14 years.
“Business is terrible,” said owner Gloria Lee. “I get maybe three people a day in my store.”
“I’ll be open through December, then I will close.”
A national tourism expert recently assessed Carson City and found that the city had a lot of potential because of its fine dining and historic buildings, but it could use more retail businesses and night life.
Roger Brooks, president of Destination Management, of Olympia, Wash., said one of the ways to draw more retail is to get the service-orientated businesses out.
The city’s master plan for downtown incorporates several uses, including residential and office.
“We are going to let the marketplace fully decide the uses for property in the downtown,” said Joe McCarthy, city economic development and redevelopment manager.
The city isn’t going to interfere with the marketplace, he said.
• Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at firstname.lastname@example.org or 881-1212.