North side left out of building projects
The news has been looking up on the business front lately for Carson City. Several big construction projects are under way along South Carson Street, and downtown businesses are looking forward to the next section of freeway to open, which will allow them to carry forward with their redevelopment plans.
But left out of the fun is north Carson City. Take a drive north on Carson Street from the intersection with Highway 50, and it’s a big contrast with the south end of the street.
“The north end of town, let’s face it, isn’t doing very well right now,” said Terry Kelly, owner of Short Stop Market. “With the economy and everything else, there’s a lot of vacant stores and empty businesses.”
Empty businesses dot North Carson Street, from the now-closed Sizzler restaurant to the long-vacant Kmart building. And business owners in the area say that more needs to be done to help them, compared with the downtown and south side that have benefited from city-funded redevelopment efforts.
Benefits provided to businesses in those areas have ranged from a few thousand dollars to host events in downtown, to six-figure incentives for car dealers and big retailers moving to south Carson City.
The freeway has had a negative effect on businesses on the north side, according to Paul Schmidt, owner of Denny’s restaurant on North Carson Street. Phase 1 opened three years ago, siphoning off some of the traffic businesses along North Carson Street depended on.
Flavor of India restaurant closed its doors last week, joining Sizzler, Chili’s, Mr. Pickles and the Carson City Diner as north-end restaurants that recently ceased operation.
With the next phase of the highway set to open in a few weeks, that will reduce traffic even more, Schmidt said.
“It’s not a very positive outlook for the restaurant business on this side of town,” Schmidt said.
Joe McCarthy, director of the Carson City Office of Business Development, said that businesses will have to adjust to the changing traffic patterns, which is not all a bad thing.
“It’s a churning process, where you will see different types of businesses emerging in north Carson that can take advantage of the type of ambiance they have up there, that aren’t totally focused on automobile traffic,” McCarthy said.
Curt Spradley, owner of Carson Coffee, also sees the disparity between north and south Carson City.
“Because we are relatively new to the city, four years, that’s something we didn’t see when we first came here,” Spradley said. “We do now. This north end of town needs some attention. It’s kind of the left armpit of Carson.”
Spradley noted that the area has fallen into disrepair as businesses have moved away. In January, Spradley survived a robbery attempt where a gunman fired two shots at him.
“The city is making great, great concessions at the south end of town,” Spradley said. “They have put all their energies into the south end of town, because it’s new and exciting. I understand that. But they need to do something about this end of town, or else it will continue to deteriorate.”
North Carson’s bright spot
All sides agree that the bright spot for north Carson City is the Tahoe Carson Regional Medical Center and the medical offices that continue to spring up around it. McCarthy notes that the presence of the medical center and Western Nevada College also offers opportunities for businesses that can play off of those assets.
“My guess is that North Carson is going to reinvent itself over the next 10 years, but it’s not going to be a major retail area,” McCarthy said. “It will be a combination of retail, office, residential and lodging.”
Another thing all sides agree on is the blight that is the vacant Kmart building.
“It’s crucial that something happen with the vacant Kmart,” McCarthy said. “It’s the problem child in that neighborhood.”
McCarthy said the difficulty of that property is that the Kmart corporation sold the land underneath the building and parking lot to a group of private investors.
“When you sever the land from the building, it’s near impossible to find a quality development team that wants to come in and develop the building without controlling the land,” McCarthy said. “It is very hard if not impossible to get financing. So that’s a challenge, to put back the land with the building, and then allow developers to come in and do something special with that space.”
McCarthy said the city is working to facilitate some relationship or arrangement to get that property developed, and there are parties expressing interest.
Schmidt said that he has talked with the Carson City Chamber of Commerce and Mayor Bob Crowell about the situation in north Carson. One of his suggestions to combat the problem is to form a merchants association to get the businesses in the area working together. He also said the city could help jump start business activity in the area with tax breaks.
“There needs to be a concerted effort from the movers and shakers in town to recognize that something needs to be down in this part of town, decide what that means, pull people together and do something about it,” Schmidt said.