Cleaning the Parking Gallery

The city’s grimy garage gets a make-over

Assistant City Manager Donna Kristaponis shows the fruits of the city’s recent $25,000 investment in its parking garage.

Assistant City Manager Donna Kristaponis shows the fruits of the city’s recent $25,000 investment in its parking garage.

If you’ve driven your car into the Parking Gallery lately, you may have noticed some improvements. New light bulbs, fresh paint, cleaner windows and fewer cobwebs are a few improvements to the city-owned facility.

“We’ve been making changes,” says Donna Kristaponis, Reno’s assistant city manager. “The garage has not been in good shape.”

In a September letter to the RN&R, Christene Piazzo-Larsen of Reno complained of grime and garbage at the Parking Gallery on Sierra and First streets. “The stairwells are disgusting,” she wrote. “You dare not use the handrails because they are completely covered with grease, dirt food particles and who knows what. … There were more cigarette butts, empty liquor and beer bottles and the horrific stench from someone using the area for a bathroom.”

Piazzo-Larsen wasn’t the first person to complain to the city about the Parking Gallery. One business owner whose shop is located in the bottom floor of the parking garage is taking legal action against the city, citing failures in upkeep and law enforcement lapses that have allowed the business to be victimized by transients and doers of no good.

About this time last fall, RN&R General Manager John Murphy took a walk downtown and noted “filth and neglect” in the garage—and in the arts and culture district of downtown.

“I was disappointed to see stained sidewalks, graffiti and an unkempt Riverwalk that no doubt had Raymond I. Smith turning in his grave,” Murphy wrote in a letter to Mayor Jeff Griffin last November.

Increased maintenance and community cleanups have addressed some of the problems, but the Parking Gallery has remained a sticking point until last month, when the Reno Redevelopment Agency spent $25,000 to address deferred maintenance, doing some work that Kristaponis agrees was long overdue, including a thorough cleaning and restriping of the garage, the removal of worn carpet on the stairwells and the repair of cracks in the concrete. The city is looking into the installation of a motion detector lighting system to “deter the activities of the homeless,” Kristaponis says. The agency would have seen to these problems earlier, if it had had the dough to make these changes.

“It all comes down to money and resources,” Kristaponis says. The garage, which still offers free parking to moviegoers and to those who frequent downtown shops, operates at an untidy loss. So the agency hasn’t been able to hire a full-time cleaning staff or round-the-clock security.

The company cleaning the garage to date, however, has lost its contract with the city due to its unsatisfactory performance. A new company began cleaning this month.

During a recent tour of the garage with Kristaponis, the bathrooms appeared relatively clean. The classic cars on display behind glass on each floor sparkled. Flat tires had been inflated. The Redevelopment Agency recently worked out a maintenance agreement with the Automobile Museum—as only museum staffers are permitted in the car display areas to clean.

On the garage floor, a few permanent stains apparently couldn’t be removed by pressure-cleaning.

“It’s cement,” Kristaponis says. “Cement absorbs stains. … Ever looked closely at a casino parking garage?”

We ride the newly scrubbed elevators to the garage’s roof and step out onto the clean, restriped lot. The view is wonderful.

“This would be a great place, we think, for a street dance,” Kristaponis says.

“That’s a great idea,” I reply.

“Does the News & Review want to sponsor one?"