NUGGET PROJECT: Other communities pair libraries, business centers
While Carson Nugget owner Steve Neighbors nails down a developer for the proposed $87 million downtown redevelopment project, other communities have found that some of the elements proposed for Carson City’s downtown are working well for them.
UNR library includes digital media lab
Carson City Library Director Sara Jones said that a proposed 10,000-square-foot digital media lab is part of the Nugget project proposal. It would be separate, but most likely adjacent to the library. A letter of intent has been signed between the city and Eagle World Media, Inc. to manage the digital media lab.
In a report prepared by a consultant on the project, Robert Hartman, the digital media lab is proposed as a technology-driven business.
“This facility will provide a professional environment to specifically target different industries such as advertising, digital effects, film, video, television, motion graphics, animation and interactive media for the purpose of creating the latest communication technologies and techniques (for) community Web designers, online game producers, video game producers and television and film producers,” the report states.
In Reno, a digital media lab is a strong component of the university library system.
The Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center on the University of Nevada campus is highly specialized, targeting students and faculty, said Carol Parkhurst, senior director of the university libraries.
“It features many technical services that go far beyond the traditional library with a lot of software for subjects like business and statistics,” she said.
“But we also have a lab for creating visual media. We have editing software, and people can check out cameras and edit their footage for projects. More is expected of students today than simply writing a paper, so we’re going beyond the print to much more multi-media,” she said.
Parkhurst added that the 295,000-square-foot knowledge center is heavily used during all hours of operation.
The business incubator
The Nugget proposal also calls for a 15,000-square-foot business incubator to be built as part of the library. A letter of intent has been signed between the city and the Center for Unique Enterprises to manage the incubator.
Libraries around the country have incorporated business incubators into their plans. Redevelopment and library staff visited a number of libraries while in the process of determining their needs. One of those was in Rockville, Md.
Sally Sternbach, director of Rockville Economic Development, Inc., a nonprofit in Maryland, said they opened a new library in late 2005, with a business incubator opening in 2006. The city of 63,000 is located in Montgomery County, which has a population of about
Sternbach said the 26,000-square-foot incubator has 30-35 startup companies, which use the 55 offices.
“This is the next step for them from moving out of their garage or bedroom. Most of the original ones are still there. The recession has hurt them but most of them have survived,” she said.
While occupancy was down 30 percent a year ago, Sternbach said the incubator is now back up to 100 percent occupancy. She said there are five incubators located throughout the county. The first one started in 1998 and has a high success rate, graduating 80 percent of its companies.
“The business incubator is the best economic development money you can spend. There is no other tool in our arsenal that’s as targeted as this one. You need to specifically look for entrepreneurs that are interested in your sector – and voila – you have a new industrial sector, but you have to choose well,” Sternbach said.
The Rockville incubator is technology-based and located next to the 100,000-square-foot library.
“The library anchor is what’s needed to draw people, and it’s been extremely successful,” she said.
But Sternbach offered advice to those planning a library for purposes of revitalization.
“There is no study, this is purely conjecture on my part, but probably, the people who go to the library are not as prepared for spending money as someone who comes downtown to go to the ice skating rink. It’s not that they don’t do errands, like buying a card or picking up a baby gift, but it’s not a shopping or dining mindset they come with,” Sternbach said.
She said Rockville planners did a couple of things really well.
“They created lots of outdoor areas – a town square, with restaurants that offer outdoor seating, flat fountains for kids to play in during the summer, and a heavily programmed public pavilion,” she said.
“As a community gathering place, it has been extremely successful, but as an economic stimulus, it has had some challenges with the recession. We expect more private sector building after the recession, and even though it’s doing well, it’s not the smashing success we had all hoped for. In the end, though, it will revitalize our downtown,” Sternbach said.