Imagine a vibrant downtown Reno.

We had one, decades ago, when retailers, restaurants and other businesses peeked out from historic buildings under the neon glow of the relatively small gaming joints—before the mega-hotel/casinos walled off the streets from their “cities within a city.”

Downtowns everywhere declined in the 1960s and 1970s as residents and businesses fled to the suburbs. City cores became ghost neighborhoods. Buildings deteriorated. Downtowns slouched toward extinction. Over the last two decades, though, many of the nation’s city centers have been reborn.

Reno is undergoing another downtown renewal effort, led by the city government and the Regional Transportation Commission. The ROW, Virginia Street’s three interconnected casinos, already had a wish list. Its suggestions include installing landscaping and sidewalk improvements—as was done in Midtown, Reno’s previous makeover effort—and creating more open space for parking and special events near its properties, as explained in our January 2023 print-edition cover story.

But it is foot traffic, not more concrete pads, that will renew downtown. There must be street-side shops, bars, restaurants and stores there next to the massive hotel-casinos. Renewal depends on a diversity of people, businesses and buildings—and a web of human connections—amid a streetscape reflecting Reno’s character, quality and continuity.

Adding more sterile plazas, luxury apartment towers, parking spaces and cosmetic features won’t do the job alone. Sitting out the process and ceding decisions to the big players invites failure.

We all have a stake in downtown’s future. If it is again to become a hub of foot traffic, shops and vitality, residents and small businesses have to get involved in the conversation surrounding Reno’s “placemaking” effort. The city’s core may again become a district where both tourists and locals want to be.

One thing is certain: No matter who calls the shots, we’ll get the downtown we deserve.

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1 Comment

  1. The Row’s suggestion that additional parking is needed is right on. Those who say that folks will take those little scooters 5 or 6 blocks to get downtown are smoking something.

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