A while back, I wrote about the plan that had bubbled up about Park Lane Promenade (I did not like it.) Recently, there has been some press about it in the RGJ, and Mike at ReReno also wrote about it. I thought Mike’s post was great, raised some nice questions and the comment thread had a great discussion about urban-development killing parking requirements.
Virginia Street has been designated a Transit Oriented Development (TOD) corridor. Virginia Street is already where the RTC Rapid bus runs every ten minutes all day long and the RTC Connect bus runs every 30 minutes almost 24 hours a day. With that infrastructure, projects that touch Virginia Street can comfortably be a little more intense, mixing in residential uses alongside the commercial/gaming/convention that already exists there, with less concern for parking.
The developer’s current proposal
The main issue I have with the developer’s proposal for Park Lane Promenade is that the development doesn’t respect Virginia Street – putting a few single restaurants separated by parking and other easements in front of a giant parking lot with a big box store on the other side. The opportunity with this location is to inject some life into that entire corridor from the southern boundary of Midtown into the two big casinos and the convention center. The opportunity is to transform that area of town into a place people want to be, on foot and on transit.
Another issue in that area is the street grid – or lack of it. The whole part of town south of this project down to Moana Lane between Kietzke and Virginia suffers from a what appears to be a complete lack of any design concept. It just turned into what it currently is from a gradual intensification of old farm roads. This part of town is now closer to the center of the whole metropolitan area than it is to the edge of any part of it. It needs to be newly subdivided into a grid of honest-to-God streets, which have sidewalks, and stop lights, and crosswalks. In short, something most modern developers and cities don’t have much experience doing.
A more charming pattern
Ever wonder why cool houses or apartments in parts of town that aren’t completely devoid of soul are so expensive? Well, it’s because nobody knows how, or is willing, to build that stuff anymore. Want a strip mall? You can build one of those anytime you want. Want an apartment complex? Easy-peasy. Want a warren of cul-de-sacs full of identical houses governed by a stifling HOA? That’s child’s play.
This developer has a large lot to work with. It’s almost half the size of Downtown Reno. That’s big. With that much space to work with, imagine a mixture of public space (park or plaza), plus retail, plus residential, on the location of the former Park Lane Mall and a transformation of the surrounding neighborhood. The public space would serve as an anchor for a new neighborhood, not a new strip mall. This neighborhood would have some key attractions: the movie theater, for example, remains an attraction.
Want a city laid out on a grid that’s easy to walk around and owned and built by many individuals over many years? There don’t seem to be too many people or developers or cities that know how to do that kind of thing anymore. The last 60 years or so has been a time when almost nobody knows how to build any new old stuff.
The future belongs to those who can figure out how to build new cities that increase in desirability as they age.