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October 15, 2009
By Mike Wolterbeek
Small neighborhood restaurants, shops, cafes, book stores, campus housing and other related University uses are all part of the plan to create a vibrant gateway area to the University at the south end of campus.
The vision for this revitalized gateway to the University’s main Reno campus was embraced by the Reno City Council when they adopted changes to the master plan for the area, as presented by the City’s Redevelopment Agency, in a unanimous vote Sept. 23. The project will have a conformance review by the Truckee Meadows Regional Planning Agency in December.
The initiative for an active University community and a vibrant downtown community merging through a new master planned area at the south end of campus is a model observed at many successful university communities around the country.
“The beauty of economic development and education working together is that we can foster imaginative and innovative economies,” University of Nevada, Reno President Milt Glick said. “When higher education and economic development partner together, everyone benefits.
“The work of the university becomes more economically relevant to the city, the region and the state creating a more diverse, revitalized economy. Our community enjoys and benefits from the science and technology, arts and culture, finance, health care and education … all of the key elements that are so central to a flourishing community.”
Of the project, John Hester, community development and redevelopment director for the City of Reno, describes it as mixed use development. Glick adds that it will provide a seamless interface with the community with positive kinds of development, a new kind of neighborhood.”
This new kind of neighborhood, at the south end of the University between Evans Avenue and Sierra Street and extending to Interstate 80, had been considered for future greenbelt. With the new master plan a small deeded park will remain in a fashion that best suits development.
“There’s a kind of mish-mash of uses and some run-down properties in the area now,” John Hester, community development and redevelopment director for the City of Reno, said. “This project is a win-win-win for everyone. It’s great for the city and University to be working together on this to attract firms that give students a place to work. It’s good for firms to have the University as a resource for employees and research, and it’s great for economic redevelopment for the city and the region.”
The project is in line with Glick’s five “Keys to the Future,” specifically the one related to service to the community and state.
“One of our goals is to blur the lines between campus and community, so the community understands the benefits we bring and so we can respond to the needs of the community,” Glick said. “The creation of a new gateway would literally blur these lines. This is especially relevant in terms of the economy and what we can contribute with research as well as building a workforce suited to the economic development needs of the 21st century.
“We must engage our surrounding communities through discovery and learning and innovative ways of doing things. As our community grows and as our campus evolves, it should become increasingly more difficult to tell where one ends and the other begins.”
The University’s Real Estate Director Troy Miller said the joint effort, with the City of Reno’s Redevelopment Agency in the lead role, has worked very well.
“The Master Plan project area is 10.5 acres, some of which is owned by the University,” he said. “The city has obtained property on the other side of the highway as part of the gateway concept, and this will complete the gateway concept for the University side.”
The village or town center idea for the University gateway is a long-term vision and with this Master Plan change, some of the University’s needs will set the stage for potential development, Miller said.
The University will not be a direct investor in any commercial development, but plays a role of working with the City and Redevelopment Agency to foster an environment that will be attractive to private investment.
“A few ideas have been discussed, but there are no specific developers with projects right now. This opens the door for ideas,” he said.