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Historic Resources Commission Mulls Lear Theater, Gateway District (Updated)


The Reno Historical Resources Commission (HRC) discussed Thursday the state of the Lear Theater and the future of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) Gateway District, between I-80 and the university campus.

After a review of the minutes and some other small business Councilwoman Naomi Duerr kicked off discussion of future plans for the Lear Theater. Duerr was acting as both a representative for Artown and the Artown board of directors, who are currently the owners of the Lear Theater. The building, designed as a church by architect Paul Revere Williams and constructed in 1939, has been in disuse since 2002 and is fenced off.

Duerr introduced Mercedes De La Garza, an architect who worked on plans for the future of the theater. De La Garza combined two prior architects’ reuse designs with historic preservation in mind as well as completing documents to the theater’s tax credit application.

Artown is focusing on projects outside of the Lear Theater, Duerr noted, and the organization is looking to possibly sell or transfer ownership of the theater to another party. The festival wants to collect as much public opinion as possible before making a decision, likely sometime in September, on the theater’s future.

The Lear Theater, currently fenced off pending future plans. Photo: Ty O’Neil

Groups considered for ownership include private parties, the City of Reno, or Artown may decide to retain ownership. Duerr said the building has a conceptual ownership by the community that Artown wants to acknowledge as best they can.

De La Garza said that the building is far from ready for public use. The HRC meeting was the first step in collecting public opinion regarding the future of the Lear Theater.

The potential future of the Gateway District was next on the agenda. The Historic Reno Preservation Society presented plans to satisfy their needs, along with those of the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) and UNR. Part of their presentation involved renderings which showed that a 60-foot bus stop, a new School of Business building, and the historic homes currently within the district could co-exist. Currently UNR is looking at a 94,000-square-foot building, and with the proposed plans the building space would allow for a maximum of 257,600 square feet as a five-story building, well over UNR’s needs.

A rendering showing the proposed location of new School of Business building in the university’s Gateway District.

The RTC wants to put in a bus stop as well and was on hand at the meeting but were unable to comment as they are awaiting the results of an environmental impact study.

The plan provided is still in its early stages but UNR has shown interest in the concept including the actual movement of some buildings to the other side of Center Street. The plan presented would also remove two motels, a tattoo parlor, a restaurant, and a textbook store. It was assumed that these would be purchased from their respective owners.

One last bit of business was the goodbye of Alicia Barber, chairperson for the HRC. At times council members were nearly brought to tears as members retold stories of past accomplishments and experiences. After a short discussion and vote, Peter Dubé was voted in as chairman until standard elections could be held at a later date.

CORRECTIONS: This article was corrected in regard to De La Garza’s role at the Lear Theater and statements made at the meeting. Her role has been clarified, and the theater is at about 50-percent complete, but “far from ready” for public use, she said in a statement to ThisisReno. We regret the error and appreciate the opportunity to clarify information presented at the meeting.

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Ty O'Neil
Ty O'Neil
Ty O’Neil is a lifelong student of anthropology with two degrees in the arts. He is far more at home in the tear gas filled streets of war torn countries than he is relaxing at home. He has found a place at This Is Reno as a photojournalist. He hopes to someday be a conflict photojournalist covering wars and natural disasters abroad.