Condos by the kayak park

The dream: drinking Silver Peak microbrews on a patio overlooking the Truckee River after wandering out of an evening flick at the Riverside 12. After sufficient pints, waddle next door and play pool. Ah, the perfect date—and I don’t even play pool.

The reality: What seemed the perfect fit for the mid-block property—that river-fronted expanse of dirt across from the theater on Sierra Street—ain’t going to happen. Things fall apart; the concept of profit-sharing with developers who’d lined up that loveable mix of restaurants and pool hall did not hold.

Instead, we’re getting 12 stories of condos. And that’s if we’re lucky and Denver-based BCN Develop-ment manages to pre-sell about 22 of its planned condos—which are going to run about $195,000 apiece, about the cost of a new three-bedroom in Spanish Springs.

Does this seem like a lot of money to pay for a condo that’s just a couple of blocks away from the Comstock Hotel, where rooms are going for $125 a week (if you sign a one-month lease)?

No matter. We’re assured that there’s plenty of demand for mid-price-range condos downtown. The three developers vying for dibs on MidBlock MegaCondo at the Reno Redevelopment Agency meeting Monday did market studies, and their financiers did market studies, and all the market studies led to the conclusion that the time is ripe for living digs downtown where condos can sell for about $200K (BCN’s proposal), $215K (San Jose-based Green Valley Corp.) and even a whopping $260K (UPA Group, which has offices in Reno). Hmm.

The Reno City Council, acting as the Redevelopment Agency, chose BCN’s 12-story, 87-unit proposal over the other two, which were, frankly, uglier—one was a skyscraping box with few visual accoutrements, and the other imposed on the banks of the Truckee much like the Watergate Hotel on the Potomac, a comparison mumbled by Republican Eddie Anderson, who sat near me and gave a running commentary—“Watch their body language!”

BCN’s building, designed by Reno architect Larry Henry, looks oddly Mapes-esque to me, but the agency was assured by historic-preservation folks (and what a good call to include historic preservationists in these kinds of proceedings!) that the building design is “modern yet pulls in historical details and elements of the theater’s design.” So it fits in, looks cool and doesn’t completely obliterate the glory of the new kayak theme park that used to be the Truckee River.

Speaking of the river, Councilwoman Toni Harsh wonders about those 100-year floods.

Harsh asks Washoe County Flood Control Manager Paul Urban whether he agrees with a report that says flood retrofitting of the Virginia Street Bridge (a stone’s throw away) will not affect construction on the mid-block property. Well, it’s good the building will be set back from the river about 40 feet. But ultimately, Urban says, it’s kind of hard to say.

“There may be some chance that it’ll work,” Urban says, “and some chance that it doesn’t.”


City Councilman Pierre Hascheff appropriately grills all three firms about possible deal breakers. Like if BCN can’t get financing because it can’t pre-sell 22 condos, will it be back to the drawing board?

BCN President Craig Nassi assures Hascheff that selling 22 units is a “non-issue.” The staff is prepared to start selling right away, and Nassi predicts the building will be sold out before its completion around the end of next year.

But what about environmental surprises on the site, Councilman Dave Aiazzi wants to know. What if—surprise!—some icky contamination is discovered? What if, say, it costs half a million for cleanup? Are the developers willing to take the property “as is”?

Nassi says the company has $1 million in contingency funds to cover such emergencies.

So, there ’tis, a new dream. I’m wishing the project all the best, but I’m not holding my breath.