Community fights over downtown demolition, revitalization
RENO, Nev. (AP) — A controversial demolition of a series of aging motels is proving to be a focal point in an evolving fight over downtown Reno’s future.
Elected officials and some business owners hope for the revitalization of a part of town many people think is gross and scary, while historic preservationists fear an out-of-state developer’s vague redevelopment plans will destroy homes and Reno’s history, the Reno Gazette-Journal reported .
Colorado-based gambling and hospitality company Jacobs Entertainment started buying and demolishing properties last year on six downtown city blocks to pave the way for a new “Fountain District.”
Jacobs plans to revitalize the area to include fountains, retail, parking garages and eventually housing to accompany existing casinos, Jacobs told the Gazette-Journal last year.
The El Ray Motel, Keno and Star of Reno motels on Fourth Street all were demolished.
The surrounding Mardi Gras, In-Town, City Center and Keno 2 motels and several houses are all next, according to permits filed with the city of Reno.
“And for all the naysayers regarding Jacobs Entertainment and the progress and demolition of these places; you haven’t lived it, you haven’t been there holding a young teenager as she has been held captive in the sex trade,” Farrah Reed posted on Facebook after last week’s demolition. “You haven’t witnessed an overdose death of a neighborhood regular.”
Reed managed the El Ray, Keno and Star of Reno motels before Jacobs bought them this year.
Now she manages the Townhouse Motor Lodge.
“I’m happy to see change in the city of Reno because it’s stagnant,” Reed said. “It’s at the stage where it’s going to be vibrant and it’s breathing new life into the downtown area. I absolutely believe in (Jacobs’) vision and I believe it’ll be the best for Reno. I love Reno, it’s my hometown, it’s my place, it’s my roots.”
Local historic preservationists, who call themselves the Motel Team, and the Society for Commercial Archaeology decried the destruction of the midcentury architecture and Reno’s tourism origin story when they learned of the plans to take down more buildings at a quick pace.
“Last week we lost the majority of the Block, which was not retained but went to a local landfill,” Corri Jimenez, leader of the Motel Team and a preservation professor, wrote in a Facebook group. The Motel Team calls the block of motels behind 3rd Street Flats “the Block.”
Other history enthusiasts are rallying to protect other midcentury motels that Jacobs plans to raze.
Neon preservationist Will Durham wants to save the motels’ neon signs, which represent a particular style of design unique to the time period when the motels were an integral part of Reno’s commerce.
Because of Nevada property laws, Jacobs Entertainment doesn’t have to show anyone its plans until it files a planning application with the city.
In the absence of information, people on social media have started making up their own ideas for what Jacobs will or won’t do.
Information from: Reno Gazette-Journal, http://www.rgj.com