Is CommRow The Thing?

We here at Burncards have been following the new CommRow development as closely as we can.  We attended the initial Planning Commission meeting where the special use permit was issued.  I watched and tweeted on the City Council meetings where the garage agreement was denied and subsequently approved.  I’m in favor of the project and I support the developer, Fernando Leal.

Judging by the comments threads on other local blogs and an op-ed piece by Diedre Pike in the RN&R this week, it seems there are a lot of people who think this project is a joke.  The sentiment can be summed up like this: Leal “failed” at his only other venture in town, the Montage, and closed a perfectly fine hotel-casino and then screwed the city out of back rent on a parking garage they had no business buying in the first place.  Oh also, this new project CommRow is a stupid idea and nobody will ever go there and it’ll be closed before you know it.

Well, let’s just take those points in order.  First, while Leal may have ended up turning Montage over to the bank, it is a stretch to call the project a failure.  Want to see a failure?  Look across the train trench from the Montage at King’s Inn, which has been closed since approximately 2 days after it opened back in 1975.  Montage has people living there and this summer, at least on a temporary basis, a neon sign museum will open on the ground floor.  It’s a nice looking building, a good project, it’s open for business and if the housing crash hadn’t happened, the ownership situation would look different.







For Phase 2:  A BMX park on top of the parking garage

The garage situation is a sordid affair, and certainly doesn’t speak that well to the City Council’s exercise of their fiduciary duty over the years.  Getting the garage off the city’s books will probably be a good deal for the city in the long run regardless, and Leal has to pay two years’ rent up front in order to use the garage until the purchase option kicks in.  The ideal situation?  No.  But not the end of the world.

Somehow there’s this notion that if someone is building a project in Reno, that’s the way Reno is going, that’s Reno’s new “thing,” so there’s been a lot of talk about whether this “thing” is the right “thing.”  Frankly, it’s irritating.  Is a hotel with a climbing wall and a boulder park the new model for things to come in Reno?  Not necessarily.  Why should it be?  Not every other property or new project in town has to be the same.

But I can tell you what Reno’s new “thing” should be, are you ready for it?

Reno’s new “thing” in this writer’s humble opinion should be getting all the closed hotels, empty buildings and vacant storefronts in downtown open for business.

You read that right.  Reno’s new “thing” needs to be, not only is some of Reno open for business, all of Reno is open for business.  Stuff is happening, it’s not sketchy or scary, it’s not all the same old casino experience.  There are some non-gaming hotels, some upscale, some old time Reno style hotel-casinos, office buildings, condo buildings, souvenir shops, restaurants, bars, yes tattoo parlors, pawn shops, art galleries, a YMCA downtown wellness center, a movie theater, coffee houses, maybe even some stores that sell stuff nearby residents or even long term visitors might need.

It’s not all casinos here, but it is all open for business.  Photo:  New To Reno

Everything in Reno, open, open for business.  Reno, a real town.  With stuff going on.  That should be Reno’s new “thing.”

From where I’m sitting, Leal, the one who is trying to make a go of this project, is doing something that points toward that goal, he deserves the support, I will remain optimistic and see how it plays out, and all you negative people, go see if you can round up millions of dollars and do your own project.  You ain’t doing the rest of us any good sitting in the corner guffawing.

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3 responses to “Is CommRow The Thing?”

  1. Leal is a great guy and a person with vision. He just had some bad luck…and I hope that this happens and he makes a great success with it. Leal is one of the good guys in Reno.

  2. Larry DeVincenzi says:

    As I’m involved with the project, I can only assume that my comments (whether positive or negative) would be considered biased. With that understanding, I just can’t wrap my head around why the public would have any reservations about redeveloping a key property in downtown Reno – especially one attached to our famous arch.

    Pike’s commentary was disappointing – not so much as it is negative, but that it was not based in historical fact.

    This new non-gaming, non-smoking family/sport oriented facility is EXACTLY what Reno needs downtown now. Those who think that Leal has manipulated the City into a deal with the garage need to look at the history of the garage, and what the City did with it over the years.

    We should be thankful that anyone is willing to put millions of dollars of private money into downtown Reno right now – especially at this key location. For those who question whether or not it’s the right “thing”, I ask them to put their money where their mouth is, and build it themselves.

    Everyone’s a critic – and few (if any) are offering real solutions. We should embrace Leal’s vision of a new downtown development. He deserves our support.

  3. Kyle Weiss says:

    Leal is one (hopefully the first of many) that seems to believe in Reno, wants to give the casinos a run for their dwindling money, and is paying attention to what Reno needs AND what would work. He has a difficult road ahead, battling the arm-crossing, naysaying public, yawn-worthy critics that all parrot the same answers based on local common formula, and that which is Reno’s oh-so-slow resistance to change.

    Personally, I’m all for him, CommRow, Reno ditching this weird deprecative “stay the same” attitude, and reinventing ourselves. Nationally, we seem to be a joke (Reno 911), colloquially we’re depressing (Motel Life), and locally we’re territorial and pensive (try driving around here). Like a drunk refusing to change, we somehow take pride and accept it. We need a new image.

    Yet, I can find every day people vocally wish “…Reno was something better…” Leal or CommRow isn’t the problem: Reno needs to get out of its own way once in a while. :)

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