Downtown: a whirlwind tour

A woman walking past the Century Riverside Theater Tuesday wondered what the crowd of people was doing across the street.

“They’re announcing big plans for the vacant lot,” I told her. “Big, exciting plans.”

“Oh,” she said, looking not very excited. “It’s about time they do something over there.”

I nodded and crossed into the redevelopment fray.

Mayor Jeff Griffin was recounting a walk to the Parking Gallery after a movie.

“I overheard someone saying, ‘There’s too many art galleries down here. We need a place to eat,'” Griffin said. “And I think that’s a good sign.”

With that, Griffin introduced two new proposals for the development of the vacant half-block across from the movie theater. One plan, by local developers Billy3, LLC, includes space for ground floor restaurants like Pane Vino and Silver Peak Brewery. (Don’t worry, Silver Peak would still keep its bar/restaurant on Wonder Street.) Above the restaurants would be an apartment complex, and next door, a 10,000-square-foot bar/restaurant/pool hall to be owned by Michael Peel, who also owns the Keystone Cue & Cushion.

The press conference was short, so I grabbed some coffee at Java Jungle and drove to Gallery 516, where Jack Hoyle’s been busy hanging the paintings of Ron Oden, head graphic artist at the Reno Gazette-Journal. A public reception is Saturday, March 9. Hoyle expects a good crowd.

It’s only a block from Gallery 516 to Reno City Hall, where I dove into another press conference fray, this one held by trench vote activists. Trench critic Mike Tracy has given up golfing to spend Saturdays getting signatures on a petition that would put the trench issue on the Sept. 3 ballot. Tracy rehashed a city poll of 800 registered voters showing that a majority, 66.63 percent, were opposed to trench construction.

Volunteers have collected about half the needed signatures to get the question on the ballot, he said. In other news, Tracy held up a stack of fliers recently mailed out as part of the city’s trench info campaign. He knows of two individuals who received more than a dozen identical fliers. Another individual ended up with an astonishing 15 fliers. (The Reno News & Review received eight fliers, addressed to current and former editors with curious spelling variants.)

“Who pays for these?” Tracy asked, waving the stack. “Our money pays for these. We’re paying for this propaganda. So we’re asking people to write, fax, call or e-mail the council members and tell them to stop wasting tax dollars.”

Then it was time for lunch. Carli and I made our way to the Little Nugget Diner on North Virginia. We were approached by panhandling teens and complimented by a homeless guy. We bought laminated poems ($4) from Larry Jamerson, who was selling his wares in front of the Eldorado Hotel Casino. Jamerson complained that sales weren’t exactly going well because potential customers and poetry lovers kept losing their money in the casinos.

“It’s brutal,” he told us, referring to making a living in downtown Reno.

And who were we to disagree?