PROGRESS: Downtown development key to Carson City’s future |

PROGRESS: Downtown development key to Carson City’s future

Sandi Hoover

An $87 million economic development project for Carson City’s downtown is being forwarded as a way to jumpstart the city’s ailing economy and decrease its dependence on sales tax dollars and gaming revenues.

In early 2010, the city’s Office of Business Development will bring a finance plan to the board of supervisors intended to demonstrate how a public/private partnership between the Carson Nugget and the city could work.

Fifty percent of the Nugget development project would be owned by the Hop and Mae Adams Trust, whose primary mission is to support the youth of Carson City through education and employment opportunities.

The overall project would include a knowledge and discovery library coupled with a business incubator and a Sierra Digital Media Lab.

The OBD has been working for years through redevelopment funding and other measures to rejuvenate the city’s downtown area with walkable space, attractions and brighter storefronts, and to create an auto mall to retain its biggest sales tax contributors – its auto dealerships.

Another effort is a seasonal downtown ice skating rink. It was approved in late 2009 for a second season, with the operation being turned over to the city’s Parks and Recreation Department and marketing kept within the budget of the OBD.

But by far, the most surprising and promising proposal has been the Nugget development project.

OBD Manager Joe McCarthy said consultants have shown the project would provide an average of 561 construction jobs over a five-year period and 465 permanent high-paying jobs at buildout in five years.

But more importantly, he said, Carson City needs a financial base with more staying power and the ability to move into the future. Ground could be broken in 2010, with doors opening as early as 2013.

The opportunity to pursue the Nugget project came about through the trust of former owners Hop and Mae Adams and a settlement with the city which made available for city use about eight acres of Nugget property now used for parking.

A preliminary finance plan includes a total of $46 million for the private portion of the project such as evening entertainment venues, office buildings, retail space and residential lofts. Consultants say they believe they have developers willing to spend that kind of money right now.

Public spending on the library, digital media lab, business and technology incubator, public plaza, a new parking system, transit hub and infrastructure would be about $41 million.

Carson City would consider a mix of funding options including a 1/8-cent sales tax increase.

“The project is complex, has many moving parts and will take time to implement,” said Tammy Westergard, deptuy manager of the OBD.