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Neighbors: Stay focused on future

John Seelmeyer
Northern Nevada Business Weekly

As a key milestone for his project draws near, the champion of a proposal to redevelop downtown Carson City wants the community to keep an open mind and stay focused on the future.

An advisory board is scheduled on Sept. 27 to take a look at the plans by P3 Development of Sacramento to create a town center in the area of the Carson Nugget north of the State Capitol complex.

A new library is envisioned as one of the cornerstones of the project, helping to attract digital media companies to Carson City.

While some question whether Carson City can position itself as a key player in the age of digital media, the city’s residents need to look boldly to the future, redevelopment champion Steve Neighbors says.

Neighbors is the sole trustee of the Mae B. Adams Trust, owner of the Carson Nugget.

“You have to invest in what’s new and relevant. If you don’t invest what is relevant for the future, you have no future,” he told members of the Nevada Business Connections, a private economic development group.

And the future of the downtown, he said, isn’t found in gaming.

“We don’t need a bigger casino or a better casino,” Neighbors said.

The proposed redevelopment would provide a short-term boost to the Carson City economy as it created several hundred construction jobs, he said.

Development proposals are structured to require significant involvement of Carson City suppliers and builders to shape the project.

The general contractor selected by P3 Development on the project is McCarthy Building Companies of St. Louis, with Shaheen-Beauchamp Builders of Carson City acting as local area facilitator.

AC Martin Partners Inc. of Los Angeles is the architect, with Hannafin Design Associates of Carson City working as local facilitator. Resource Concepts of Carson City will help with all civil engineering work.

In the long term, Neighbors said it was the hope of the Nugget owner Mae Adams, who died last November, that her estate would benefit the Carson City community, particularly its young people.

The Mae B. Adams Trust proposes donation of land to the Carson City Library – not the city government, but the library. The city then would lease the library facility, paying rent to the library. The payments would help develop library programs, notably those that would support a nearby cluster of digital media companies.

“A library is a resource. We have to tie into the digital world,” Neighbors said.

He acknowledge that it’s tough to raise capital for the project in the

current environment.

A version of the plan includes state government as a key tenant of privately developed office space in the downtown project. But the state’s budget crunch appears to put that on hold, at least for the moment.

The project also is proposed to include privately owned retail space.

Another short-term worry: Construction around the Carson Nugget might hurt the casino’s business. Neighbors said the casino’s management has signed on to a “community first” philosophy in which the property is willing to take short-term losses to help Carson City in the long-term.

Neighbors, a Boise resident who got involved with the Nugget as a turnaround expert, said any effort to reposition an organization – whether it’s a business or a community – is certain to encounter opposition from folks who don’t want change.

“There’s an ideology that supercedes facts,” he said.