Downtown 20/20 talks BID, housing |

Downtown 20/20 talks BID, housing

John Barrette

Business improvement district concerns near-term and prospects for downtown housing in the longer term were among matters raised Wednesday evening at a Downtown 20/20 meeting.

“The BID district is going to be designed some time in July, is what I’ve heard,” said Rob Webster, vice president of the downtown promotion group that met at Plan b Microlounge. Webster said the district, a likely offshoot of the one-eighth of a penny city sales tax hike for downtown business corridor and other capital projects, probably will have to involve downtown property building owners as property taxpayers of record.

The city’s Board of Supervisors has called for formation of BID units as business corridor upgrades move forward, but details are yet to be worked out on involvement and any assessment of costs.

June Joplin, Comma Coffee owner-operator, said those leasing buildings should be involved and voiced concerns about higher rental rates for the buildings stemming from possible changes. She asked at one point who should be in charge.

That prompted Doreen Mack, the group’s president, to say that’s a reason for business operator involvement in the group and district. “That’s huge,” said Mack. “You have a voice and you need to be heard.”

Chris Bayer, local government official, musician and Brewery Arts Center (BAC) spokesman, raised the idea of working toward downtown housing. He objected to it not being in the Downtown 20/20 list of goals.

“We don’t have a housing strategy,” he said, adding such housing could attract young adults who create vibrancy and attract others to the downtown. Webster, a financial adviser, agreed it would help to have loft or penthouse apartments. Bayer said, however, they would have to remain affordable.

Others in the crowd of about 35 said studios would attract the young adults, work better than apartments, but zoning changes would be necessary.

Throughout the 90 minute session Webster and Mack, who has an interior decor business, said the BID and downtown housing discussions pointed to the need for membership to help in advocacy at the city’s governing board. In addition, Mack listed the group’s goals, among which are one traffic lane north and south instead of two each way on Carson Street downtown, along with other pedestrian-friendly changes.

Joel Dunn, executive director of the city’s Convention and Visitors Bureau, was in the audience and said events in warmer months attract plenty of visitors and the group should concentrate on ways to attract them downtown.

Among others who showed for the meeting were Supervisor John McKenna and his November election challenger, Lori Bagwell; John and Tami Shelton, the executive and program directors at the BAC; and Chet Burton, interim president at Western Nevada College.