The Reno City Council’s still trying to make up its mind.
“I’ve said before that I think this project is too much for this space,” Mayor Jeff Griffin told the council. “And, if in the end, we do not have four votes, we won’t move forward with what [Grand American Inc.] has spent a lot of time and money on.”
Councilman Pierre Hascheff was the sole vote in favor of extending the city’s exclusive negotiating agreement with Grand American Inc., which has already spent $100,000 on the project’s design and has been wooing four restaurants to move into what it’s been calling the Reno Market.
“The devil’s in the details,” Hascheff repeated repeatedly. Though he favored giving Grand American more time to resolve such details as parking for the mall and finagling financing, he also expressed a need for signed lease agreements by prospective tenants of the facility.
“Didn’t we learn our lesson from OliverMcMillan?” Hascheff asked. “They had good intentions [to fill up retail spaces in the Century Riverside theater building], but they couldn’t get tenants to sign. Before you knew it, months turned into years.”
Several of the shops in the theater building, a block away from the Mapes site, are still empty.
Councilman David Aiazzi worried that the Reno Market would require a bunch of new investments on the part of the city. Aiazzi’s counterproposal for the site includes a public plaza with a skating rink built with funds from a public bond that’s pending voter approval in November.
To make Reno Market happen, the city would have had to pay for an extension of the Riverwalk and for a public plaza on First Street. Grand American also asked the city for help with “credit enhancement” so that the developers could get a construction loan.
Grand American would have paid $250,000 for the lot, but the city would have retained responsibility for such things as hazardous material clean-up on the site.
Still, the Downtown Improvement Association backed continued negotiations with Grand American, and Aiazzi began forming a motion to let the developers have another month while the city looked into the feasibility of a public plaza or a public plaza and, maybe, one restaurant.
But a standalone restaurant isn’t likely to work at the site, argued Bruce Phillips, Grand American president.
“You need to look at increasing the critical mass [of people coming downtown],” he said. “It takes more oomph than just a small piece. Give us enough space. We need the whole site to accomplish our goals.”
Finally, Griffin intervened, urging the council to at least try to be decisive.
“I want you to focus on the reality of what is,” Griffin said. “If there’s not an appetite for this project, let’s take care of it today.”
So the council dispensed of Grand American and moved on to new business. Phillips packed up his artists’ renderings of the Reno Market and quietly left council chambers.