Changes of perception lead to changes of conception

There is a tension in Reno between three forces. These forces relate to perception. The tension is an impediment to future development in large swathes of the city. It goes like this:

The forces and their perceptions

  1. Reno is a grand old small city of majestic brick houses and old buildings and parks and mature landscaping. The force that comes through is one of preservation of value, protection.
  2. Reno is a suburban city. Everything is close enough that it’s an easy drive to get anywhere. It’s small enough that traffic is rarely a serious impediment to wanting to drive. It’s low-density enough that there is plenty of room to stash cars, except by the university. The force that comes through is one of subservience to automobile support infrastructure, at the expense of many other things that impact quality of life.
  3. Reno is a city full of zones torn between their former nature as comfortably middle-class early 20th century subdivided urban plat neighborhoods, their current reality as rough, mid-century strip-suburbia, and their potential future as dense urban development. The force that comes through is a ring of blight surrounding the downtown core, isolating the dense urban development on an island of sorts.

These forces constantly tug at one another and it mostly effects urban redevelopment. Solving #3 requires increasing density. This is at odds with the neighbors of force zone #3 – force zone #1. These folks want to preserve value, and keeping density out is the way to make that happen. The density would add attractiveness to the areas being densified, but in order to attract sufficient numbers of customers, the needs of force zone #2 must be met. There must be support infrastructure for automobiles sufficient to meet the standards of suburban dwellers.

There is more than one such example, such as the class perception issue that pervades the economics of getting projects going in Reno. There are other forces at play as well, such as the scale of income differences between what many of the city’s landlords and sellers want and the profit potential of the businesses, tenants, or developments they attract. And of course there is the issue of how unincorporated Washoe, and residents of other surrounding cities and townships, feel about their place in a metro area that is still, despite their existence, mostly called “Reno”.

Changing people’s perceptions – mostly what they see or judge looking out from their own zone of force – will be the key to changing the kind of city Reno allows itself to become. It is the only way to redirect the forces, currently at odds with one another, onto the same path, where they can support one another.

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