A “green incubator” develops from local architect firm

The group of green businesses in the Cathexes building is no coincidence

From left, architects James Molder and Don Clark created the “green incubator” Cathexes building.

From left, architects James Molder and Don Clark created the “green incubator” Cathexes building.

Photo By Kat Kerlin

The Cathexes building is located at 250 Bell St., Reno. For more information, visit www.cathexes.com.

Walk inside the brightly colored walls of the Cathexes building, and a theme begins to emerge. It’s not just the snazzy, energy efficient design. Or the playful elements of a basketball court, movie screening room, gym equipment, piano and more wine bottles—opened and unopened—than you’ll find anywhere this side of Napa Valley. It’s not even the open design and cubicle-free work stations, making it hard to know where one business ends and another begins. It’s the businesses themselves.

Among those leasing space from the architect firm Cathexes, which developed the building, are wind project developer Great Basin Wind; one-stop-renewable-energy shop Clean Energy Center; eco-branding company Smartbrand, creator of the eco social networking site www.projectecobrand; bike messenger company Bootleg Bike Couriers; and environmental outreach company Education Design Group, among others. Reno Bike Project, which recently moved from the building, was one of its first tenants. And Chris Brooks, director of Bombard Electric, one of the biggest electrical firms in the country whose Renewable Energy Division has installed large solar arrays in Nevada, just leased an office at Cathexes.

The environmental thread running through these businesses is no coincidence. Cathexes fancies itself a “green incubator,” though they’re still trying to define what that means.

“Each aspect of these businesses build on what we’re doing,” says Cathexes cofounder Don Clark. “There’s a connectivity with like-minded people versus if we had Halliburton in here.”

The building, at 250 Bell St., looked like any other rundown warehouse in downtown Reno a year and a half ago. But architects Clark and James Molder saw it as a great opportunity for an urban infill project, one in which they could house their architecture firm, Cathexes, and other like-minded businesses.

“Urban infill—the other phrase is ‘urban sprawl,'” says Clark. “That’s when you keep taking chunks of land outside and building the next subdivision or strip center. With urban infill you’re taking what’s existing, and you’re filling in the gap. … All the growth in the next 10 years could probably be put in the blank spots within the McCarran circle, and how walkable would that be?”

Molder points to one of their projects, the West Street Market, as another example. “There was this no-man’s land on West Street in the center of everything. … You use your existing infrastructure instead of creating new.”

The Cathexes building also serves to demonstrate green design. Concrete cut from the building’s sides to make windows found new life as partitions in the building and formed the receptionists’ desk. Abundant daylighting makes electrical lights frivolous. Much of the original wood was reused, and a windmill will soon provide energy to the building.

Given the emerging “green economy,” the other tenants here could could help create business for each other. At least, that’s part of the idea. Susan Clark, founder of Dynamic Competence, a consulting company to improve workplace interaction, and of Education Design Group, says, “We’re creating an intentional space that supports that kind of dialogue—where everyone can offer their input from their different perspectives.”