History channeled

Welcome to this week's Reno News & Review.

We, as a newspaper, have often come down on the side of historic preservation, but the Virginia Street bridge wasn't one of those instances. I think most people could look at the decaying concrete and the effects that bridge had on flooding in downtown Reno and see the council did the right thing by replacing it. The bridge wasn't historic, it was just old infrastructure that should have been replaced before it became old enough to be thought of as antique.

There is a building that I keep an eye on, though. The city's oldest building is the old Mercantile on the corner of Commercial Row and Sierra Street. It's disguised in a uniform off-white, and I'm always waiting for whomever owns the old Fitzgerald's Casino, currently Whitney Peak, to make some kind of formal attempt to tear it down. I can't say that the strategy is to allow it to decay one brick at a time until it actually becomes dangerous to people walking by it, but that's sure what it looks like. It's a strategy that's been used before. For example, rumor has it the condition for the sign on the El Cortez has been ignored for so long, it can no longer be repaired, and it must be torn down before a big wind takes it down on people's heads.

For a minute back in 2011, I had hope that CommRow would stabilize the facade of the mercantile, and put an open-air beer garden in there. I know that was Fernando Leal's idea, which I think would have been great—preserving the historic part of it, while making it affordably useable.

I remember when former mayor Bob Cashell made such a big deal out of certain properties and businesses that didn't live up to his idea of proper aesthetics for downtown Reno. I think this council could have the wherewithal to make the preservation of the city's oldest building a passion project. It should not be left up to Whitney Peak to bear all the costs of the refurbishing that building. As the city works on its master plan, perhaps a little money could be set aside for historic preservation, pehaps even with an earmark toward restoring the exterior of the corner of Commercial Row and Sierra Street.