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Downtown more than nice place to visit

Nevada Appeal editorial board

There was a time in downtown Carson City when allowing residences in zones normally reserved for commercial enterprises might have seemed like a bad idea.

When far too many storefronts were vacant, when some blocks were too seedy to feel comfortable walking at night, when some landlords might have been tempted to rent cheaply to get any kind of return on their investment. In those days, there may have been some valid reasons for wanting to inspect and approve every proposal for residences in the downtown core.

But over the course of the past decade, with an infusion of capital from both public and private sources, downtown Carson City has gradually carved out a future that seems a little brighter every year.

There are still problem spots, to be sure. And it’s not yet the vibrant hotspot the earliest organizers of downtown redevelopment and the Main Street program had desired. Still, the fact we can envision such a future for downtown Carson City and watch it progress one step at a time gives us cause for optimism, rather than skepticism.

The city staff’s and Planning Commission’s recommendations of a code change to allow residences as a primary use – rather than going through a special permitting process – is one of those small steps that will pay off in time.

The advantages of mixing commercial and residential uses can be many. It’s more efficient, for one thing, because people can live within walking distance of where they shop and work. More people around at night generally improves the safety, too.

Downtown will continue to evolve over the next decade, aided primarily by the freeway now under construction in the north end of town. There will be just as much traffic, but it should take on a different character – more local, less pass-through.

Downtown also will take on that character, as a destination rather than a place to get past. City supervisors should have no qualms about approving a code change that will allow downtown to develop as a place people won’t just want to visit; they might like to live there, too.