Green light for Nugget project
Carson City officials gave the Office of Business Development the nod Tuesday to participate with the Carson Nugget in developing a detailed plan for nearly nine acres of downtown property as a civic and business city center.
The public-private partnership would feature a new central library in the downtown center and a business and technology center.
“We want to focus on bringing in jobs and industries and we want to talk to the longterm stakeholders,” said Steve Neighbors, vice president of the Nugget, who introduced himself as a steward for the Nugget’s owner and president Alan Adams, as well as for the Hop and Mae Adams Trust.
Neighbors has assembled a team of consultants comprised of Robert Hartman, who has 30 years in the high-tech industry and lives in Genoa, and Mark Lewis, a redevelopment and economic development specialist whose projects include the Reno Aces Ball Park.
“The first thing I noticed was that Carson City does not have a town center,” Hartman said. “You have a group of (features) flying in close formation but we don’t see a cluster of businesses. Any city with any identity has a critical mass. We have an opportunity to bring technology here to an epicenter.”
Hartman said many companies in the Silicon Valley have jobs that are moving into the digital realm. The proposal for Carson City calls for bringing a digital lab to the city’s center with different projects in animation, computers, software, gaming and the film industry.
“This is a $25 billion industry that is embryonic,” he said.
The downtown center would pull together successful elements such as the Nevada State Library and Archives, City Hall, the V&T Depot, the Nevada State Museum, the Capitol and Legislative Building, the Laxalt Building, the Children’s Museum, the Secretary of State’s Office, State Supreme Court and Brewery Arts Center. It would become the adhesive binding them together.
Hartman called the project “a defining moment in the city’s history.”
The plan also is intended to solve some of the city’s financial woes through job creation in new industries, said OBD Director Joe McCarthy.
Carson City has a heavy dependence on sales taxes in a service-based economy. With more than 12 percent of residents unemployed and tax revenues continuing to plummet, public safety and other city services are severely compromised, he said.
Lewis said all the pieces are in place for a dramatic turnaround for Carson City.
Carson City Supervisor Robin Williamson asked why the project is timely considering the state of the economy.
“The opportunity exists because you have the partners. The Nugget is willing to devote resources and we’re coming out of the recession right now,” Lewis said. “You need to build an economy that is not based on cars and casinos.”
Mayor Bob Crowell named several other major developments that are now in place which can be brought together by a new downtown center, such as the freeway, the V&T and major airport improvements.
The development project could also include commercial/retail office space, an IMAX theater, a public plaza for community art and other events, a public transit hub and parking.
Supervisor Shelly Aldean wanted to know why Carson City was considered ideal as a business incubation center for digital media.
Hartman said that Carson City is centrally located between Hollywood and the Silicon Valley, and that the low taxes and quality of life here are extremely attractive to those in crowded cities.
“You have a diamond here that doesn’t have the facets cut,” he said.
Lewis also pointed out that Carson City already has great community partnerships with Carson Tahoe Regional Healthcare and Western Nevada College.
Small cities, he said, tend to be more quick and nimble, as well as passionate about small business.
Alan Adams told the board he whole-heartedly supported the proposal, and former supervisor Ron Swirczek offered his services to the city.
“We’re beginning to have a true blending, and with that, we do have an identity and we become a hub rather than the end of a spoke. I truly believe this is a moment in time,” Swirczek said.
McCarthy said the team will come back to the board sometime before the end of January with details and a finance plan.
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