By John Seelmeyer
UPDATE (11/27/18): UNR’s sale of the property was approved November 16, 2018 by the Regents at $18 million, or $2 million under the appraised price. UNR’s statement: “The University had attempted to find a buyer through a Request for Proposal process, which didn’t attract buyers who were able to ultimately meet the conditions of the RFP. The minimum bid for the RFP was $20 million. A new appraisal, including new information about flood mitigation and infrastructure requirements, adjusted the price to $18 million. The sale was then conducted through a broker on the open market.”
The possible sale of 104 acres of UNR’s Main Station Field Laboratory along McCarran Boulevard at the east of Reno is scheduled for a decision by the Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education on Friday.
If the sale is completed, plans call for the development of business and office buildings on the property, which extends south from Mill Street.
The sale price of $18 million was set by an appraisal completed in September by the Reno firm of Johnson Perkins Griffin LLC.
The potential buyer, Reno Land Inc., has focused in recent months on in-fill development — finding new uses for vacant land inside the metropolitan area.
Its current projects include the redevelopment of the former site of the Park Lane Shopping Center into residential, office and retail uses. Reno Land Inc. also is spearheading the residential, retail and office development at the Rancharrah property in south Reno.
Company executives declined to comment on the McCarran Boulevard project, noting that they are still completing their due-diligence examination of the deal. The transaction is expected to close escrow before the end of the year.
The land represents about 11 percent of the Main Station Field Laboratory. University officials plan to protect the rest of the property — roughly 800 acres to the east of the proposed business park — with a conservation easement that would permanently prevent its development.
The office and business space planned at the property would help meet demand from Reno’s growing economy.
CBRE, a real estate brokerage firm, reported at mid-year that the vacancy rate in top-quality office space in the area had dropped to 6.6 percent. That compares with a vacancy rate of more than 7 percent a year earlier, and CBRE analysts noted that growing companies are quickly snapping up new office space.
UNR plans to use the sale proceeds for a variety of agriculture-related projects. Among them are an endowment to create an International Center for Sustainable Dryland Agriculture, the creation of a center at Eureka to study range and sheep improvement and construction of a classroom at Wolf Pack Meats, a technologically advanced processing plant at the Main Station Field Laboratory.
The Main Station property was acquired by the university in 1956. Research at the station ranges from tests of alternative crops and the creation of better techniques to raise livestock to improve air, soil and water quality.
John Seelmeyer is a business writer and editor in Reno. In his 40-year career, he has edited publications in Nevada, Colorado and California and written several thousand published articles about business and finance.