Positively Fourth Street
East Fourth Street in Reno is an often misunderstood place. It’s an area of town that’s sometimes negatively characterized as a home for the homeless, a place where methheads, prostitutes and day drinkers wander and litter. However, for a few business owners, nonprofit organizations and volunteers, East Fourth Street is also the perfect place to throw a big, family-friendly party.
Positively Fourth Street, a block party now in its second year, is one of those cool, increasingly common events happening around Reno, collaborations that bring together different segments of our increasingly diverse cultural community—the art folks, the business folks, the tech folks, the nonprofit folks, and the foodies.
It’s a party that will include a farmers’ market, food trucks, kid-oriented activities like a dunk tank and a petting zoo, a performance by the String Beings string quartet, a variety of DJs, a pop-up record swap organized by the Holland Project, early evening performances by the bands Street Eaters and Surf Curse, a backpack drive for homeless kids in Washoe County organized Volunteers of America, a bicycle swap organized by the Reno Bike Project, a pop up restaurant organized by Mark Estee of Campo, Heritage and Chez Louie, historical tours of Fourth Street organized by RenoHistorical.org, a cocktail bar tended by the organizers of the Reno Instagrammys, a beer garden featuring brews from brewery Under the Rose, and more.
“This year it’s more about building a culture around the block, essentially showcasing the direction we would like to take it in the future,” says Scott Emond, the owner of Under the Rose, which is based on Fourth Street and had its grand opening during the event last year.
A key part of the event this is the Better Block Project, which will temporarily transform the block of actual street between Valley Road and Elko Avenue into a better version of itself, complete with bike lanes, street trees and better signage.
“The better block project is something that started in Dallas, Texas, and has gone world wide, kind of a viral movement,” says Noah Silverman, director of the Reno Bike Project, which organized the Better Bike Project with help from the Regional Transportation Commission and the city of Reno. “It’s really about creating a snapshot of the future block we’d like to see.”
The urban, industrial environment around Fourth Street means that the real estate is generally less expensive than in other up-and-coming Reno neighborhoods, like Midtown.
“It’s brought in a really eclectic crew due to the price per square foot,” says Emond. “A lot of people who are like, ’Hey, we’re on a budget, but we want to work hard’ have come down here. And it’s turned into ’Let’s keep working hard!” And it’s kind of formed into something of a movement.”
But the organizers of the Positively Fourth Street event are quick to deflect claims that they’re trying to gentrify an urban area.
“I think there’s a difference between gentrification and rejuvenation,” says Tim Conder, co-owner of Bootleg Courier Co. and the Cuddleworks artists studios, both based on Fourth Street. “Making the area nice for the people who already live there is a huge deal.”
For instance, Conder says he has no desire to eliminate the homeless shelter in the neighborhood.
“In my estimation, it would make sense if all the social services were on Fourth Street,” he says. “It would make sense to localize those. I have no interest in seeing that demographic leave the area. I just want to make it nice for them, for us, for everybody that’s already here.”