Goodbye, Fourth Street

Tim Conder is the manager of Cuddleworks Art Space, co-owner of Bootleg Courier Company, and CEO of BlackBird.

In 2011, my small business, Bootleg Courier Company, was looking for a home. We decided on a much-too-big-for-our-needs 5,000-square-foot warehouse on East Fourth Street, next door to our friends at the Reno Bike Project.

Back then, Fourth Street was primarily inhabited by seedy bars and late-night clubs. I was attracted to the neighborhood, in part, by the industrial feel and the mixed inhabitants—varying socioeconomic backgrounds—coexisting together. It was similar to the neighborhoods in the Bay Area that I had left behind to start my business in Reno. In those cities, drug rehabs and sex shops existed next door to upscale coffee shops and boutique clothing stores. Fourth Street similarly felt like a place where anything was possible.

Our warehouse became home to working artists and took on the moniker Cuddleworks. The feeling of camaraderie was palpable. We produced one event each year. The space helped launch initiatives like KWNK Community Radio and Magpie Coffee, and was a project development space for the Holland Project, Fleischmann Planetarium, Great Basin Community Food Co-op, the Nevada Museum of Art, Sheppard Fine Arts Gallery, and more.

I was homeless in San Francisco for about a year in 2006-07. One of my biggest takeaways from that experience: In order for social services to be effective, they must be accessible. Reno has all of the ingredients to make this a reality. Because of the train trench, the City of Reno owns a significant amount of property in the middle of town. There are no limitations to the centralization of services other than our own vision and priorities.

It saddens me that newcomers to Fourth Street are pushing to move social services. Business owners who capitalized on recession-era low property values to build their upscale businesses now want to eradicate anyone outside of their specific higher-end clientele.

This story is not a new one—progressive individuals and businesses move into old, dilapidated buildings in forgotten neighborhoods to realize their goals. Initially, they interact positively with the community that already exists there. Then, at some point, investors and developers take notice.

Together with Under the Rose Brewing and the Reno Bike Project, Cuddleworks helped produce Positively 4th Street—a project highlighting the positive attributes of our street. This event, intended to help secure needed infrastructure updates, also marked the beginning of the end to our time on Fourth Street.

What we can learn: Keep everything you do a secret. Being proud of your neighborhood is understandable, but it could also do harm to the people living in that neighborhood. Purchase your space whenever possible. If there’s a way, find it. Always think about origin. Who was here before me? What was their life like? How can I honor them and their efforts? Am I contributing while being sensitive to history and neighborhood culture?

Goodbye, Fourth Street. I won’t soon forget you. Cuddleworks will have a new home beginning December 1. The Reno Bike Project has relocated to Grove Street.