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Genoa hopes improvements will boost its tourism sector

Rob Sabo
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

Nevada’s oldest settlement is set to get a facelift next summer.

Douglas County community leaders are working through a plan to make Genoa’s downtown more pedestrian friendly with improvements designed to increase parking and help shoppers move about more freely. Other proposed enhancements are planned to upgrade aging infrastructure and beautify the historic settlement – and leaders hope the work will lure more travelers to the town.

The Genoa Destination project, working with an already-established $1.5 million budget, seeks to beautify the historic downtown by adding landscaping, burying overhead utilities, repaving disintegrated asphalt and improving walkways, street crossings, lighting and signage.

Currently in the engineering phase, Douglas County officials hope to get projects out to bid by next spring, says Lisa Granahan, economic vitality manager. Work is expected to be completed before the annual Genoa Candy Dance, the largest special event in the Carson Valley. Much of the scoping work was conducted in previous community assessments and economic vitality studies, Granahan notes, which has allowed the project to advance at a much quicker pace.

Sandra Wendel & Associates is the landscape engineer, and Resource Concepts, Inc. is the engineer for the rest of the project.

Ideas for the overall look of the enhancements are still being kicked around, but the goal is to use combine current technology and engineering practices with an eye toward preserving the town’s history through a distinctive Main Street, says Dave Whitgob, Genoa Destination project champion and a town board member.

“This project is a tremendous opportunity for us to take an inventory of what it is that brings people to Genoa and what we could do to leverage that further to initiate even more visits to the town,” Whitgob says. “We are committed to making sure we have a viable business community and also want to take a look at the mix of business we have in respect to the guest experience.”

In addition to the state’s oldest watering hole, the Genoa Saloon, the town has modest mix of keepsake shops, dining establishments and a small hotel. Two new restaurants recently took space in Genoa: Tombstone Tap and Grill opened in July on Genoa Lane, and Genoa Station Bar and Grill opened on Main Street in August. Other businesses new to the area include Genoa Historic Ghost Tours and Silver Heels Western Wear and Boot Store, expected to open in December.

There are still a few small retail spaces available in Genoa, notes Town Manager Sheryl Gonzales. The historic Pink House – built in 1855, five years after the town was founded as a trading settlement – also could house a new business, she says.

By improving the guest experience, town leaders seek to increase tourism from people new to Genoa, as well as make it more attractive to northern Nevadans already familiar with the town’s qualities and charm.

“If we do it right, before guests leave they will be thinking about their next visit and also will be socializing about their visit with friends and family,” Whitgob says. “We put together a model that made good sense that uses best practices from other towns that are economically viable in a most difficult economy, and wrapped that all in the historic equity that town has.

“We are committed to bringing in people from outside of the area, and at the same time we also want to introduce Genoa to people in Reno, Lake Tahoe that have yet to discover Genoa.”