The former Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission on Third and West streets is now just a hole in the ground near downtown. The closed building’s services were moved long ago to the Record Street Community Assistance Center.
Back in July, the Reno City Council approved a measure for Eldorado Resorts to tear down the city-owned former mission and two closed Eldorado buildings. According to a Reno Gazette-Journal story, the resort company was to loan the city half the $345,000 needed to demolish the buildings and create a parking lot.
The removal of a building isn’t always an example of progress, just as the construction of a building isn’t always an example of progress. In fact, in a gambling market where the only things that will allow Reno and Reno businesses to succeed are the things that set us apart and give us a unique identity, tearing an old building down could be the opposite of progress.
You don’t have to be an astrologer to guess that Reno is not the future of gambling in this country. It’s barely the present of gambling. But what Reno has always been, and always will be, is the past of gambling in this country. And it’s our past, including our older buildings, that make this city unique.
We’re not writing this editorial to castigate the city of Reno for once again spending the average citizens’ money to benefit the casino owners, although the argument could certainly be made. We’re not even writing this editorial to point out the impotence of the City Council, since King’s Inn, a real example of blight in downtown Reno, still stands within spitting distance of the Mission’s pit like a middle finger to Bob Cashell’s time as mayor. We’re not even writing this to call baloney on the city’s claim that the undeveloped property is worth more than the developed property.
We just want to pause in the silence following the razing of the Reno-Sparks Gospel Mission and think about what history really does and could mean to this city. When does potential value of property mean more to this city’s citizens than its own uniqueness? After all, the city’s oldest building, the Masonic building on the corner of Commercial Way and Sierra Street, occupies space that could—almost certainly does—have more value without the building on it.
There are a couple of bridges over the Truckee River that have some age. But isn’t a bridge, as part of a city’s infrastructure, more important because of its current use than because of its historic utility?
The government of Reno needs to reexamine its priorities with regard to historic buildings and preserving the city’s unique personality. And just as the plaza across from City Hall was supposed to be more attractive to developers after the one-and-only Mapes Hotel was removed and yet will remain empty far into the future, it seems likely that that corner on West and Third streets will remain a temporary parking lot for a very long time.