Altered estates

Marmot Properties

Local artist Pan Pantoja recently completed a new mural for Marmot Properties at 210 Moran St.

Local artist Pan Pantoja recently completed a new mural for Marmot Properties at 210 Moran St.

Photo/Matthew Bieker

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Usually, the presence of marmots in a neighborhood would decrease home values—but since 2010, Marmot Properties has been redeveloping dilapidated properties in Midtown with a signature style and some help from local artists.

Eric, Bryan and Gary Raydon—brothers with extensive individual real estate and urban development backgrounds in major cities, founded Marmot Properties in 2008, during the throes of the recession.

All three brothers had either been laid off or faced a serious lack of prospects in their respective real estate markets. Bryan’s previous work developing resorts in Northstar, however, meant he was familiar with Reno, and he alerted his brothers to the potential he saw in one then barely burgeoning neighborhood: Midtown.

“To my brothers and I, it was totally illogical,” said Bryan. “You would have Old Southwest—which is really nice—and then you had this strip of pretty shaggy retail … it just wasn’t the right location for a downtrodden neighborhood.”

In 2012, Marmot Properties acquired a packet of land in Midtown encompassing the streets Stewart, Moran and Sinclair—south of the Discovery Museum. Dubbed “The Assemblage,” Marmot Properties began renovating those initial 17 buildings, including their own office, in a decidedly different style.

“I’ve always been a big adherent and preacher of the ’broken window theory,’” said Bryan. “It’s really just making small improvements here and there to lift the neighborhood, or lift the perception of the neighborhood.”

Bright colors, xeriscaped lawns and overtly modern fixtures have now become staples of a Marmot overhaul, but perhaps the most noticeable elements of the Marmot style are the large murals adorning many of their new properties.

Faced with the vandalism, crime, and general disrepair of the neighborhood at the time, the brothers started employing radical stylistic choices in their renovations as a message to the community: Somebody cares.

“Our first initiative was to say, ’OK, we’re done with the graffiti,’” said Bryan. “So we started painting the murals on the doors and on the fences to dissuade that, but then we started getting some positive feedback from people thinking, ’Hey, you know, this looks really nice.’”

Local artist Pan Pantoja recently completed the newest addition to the Marmot’s mural collection in Midtown—an apartment building on Moran Street one block away from the Marmot Properties office.

“I really like the color, and I think murals just make places look nicer,” said Pantoja. “I think that apartment had a bunch of writing on it before. It’s kind of neat, you know, you roll down the street, and you roll by a giant dude with a tree for a head holding a window—that’s a pretty weird thing to drive by.”

Pantoja has painted murals for the city before and believes there’s merit to the idea that most graffiti writers respect murals enough not to deface them. He also believes, however, that commissioning public art also comes with responsibility on the part of the landowners.

“Whether or not they’re making a buck off it, and they are, it’s smart,” said Pantoja. “They’re doing it in a way that also benefits others too. Some of these landowners are only looking out for themselves … I think they’ll preserve their buildings."

With over a dozen new projects slated for completion in the coming months, Bryan is sure that more murals will find their way to the streets of Midtown.

“It’s probably more expensive than doing a teeny little sculpture, but I think it’d be cooler and make a bigger statement,” said Bryan. “We’re kind of loud and proud and we’re going to keep that going.”