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Apartments, permanent closure of part of Washington Street planned along Riverside Drive


A new development at the corner of Riverside Drive and Washington Street that stalled more than a decade ago is being revived—and expanded with triple the number of units—with work set to begin within a month.

Development company Urban Lion is planning to build a 34-unit housing complex with retail space on what is currently the parking lot just east of Hub Coffee Roasters. The existing cluster of businesses at the site was also developed by Urban Lion.

Renderings for the new project have not been made available, and This Is Reno did not receive a response to multiple requests for information made to Urban Lion. However, the building permit—which references a four-story building with 34 one- and two-bedroom apartment units—would appear to be a departure from the previously planned project.

In August 2007, the Reno Gazette Journal reported that the site would be home to 11 high-end condos along with retail space contained within a three-story building in a development called Ponte Vecchio.

The development sits squarely within Reno’s historical Powning Addition. Now a historical conservation district, the Powning Addition was established by C. C. Powning in the 1880s. While the earliest buildings in the neighborhood were modest, working-class homes, there are many historically significant buildings in the neighborhood now—including the McKinley Park School, Lora J. Knight House, Ambassador Apartments, 20th Century Club and the Lear Theater (formerly the First Church of Christ, Scientist).

In a press release concerning the revival of the project, Urban Lion is cited as having “been devoted to the neighborhood” for more than a decade and working to turn it into a “vibrant hub of local small businesses and social gatherings.”

“Our Riverside buildings date back to the early 1900s, and we take great pride and care transforming our spaces for today while paying homage to the early architecture of the Powning District,” said Paddy Egan, partner at Urban Lion, in the release. “We strive to make local businesses a top priority over national franchises, and it’s our intention to keep moving in this direction while building something new in this historic part of town.”

In an effort to make the new construction blend with the historical neighborhood, Urban Lion representatives said the new apartments will have a “modern design with warm finishes of wood, stone, and brick textures that represent the surrounding areas.”

A home dating to the early 20th century that was moved from the area at Washington Street and Riverside Drive to accommodate a new development sits abandoned on Feb. 26, 2021.
A home dating to the early 20th century that was moved from the area at Washington Street and Riverside Drive to accommodate a new development sits abandoned at the corner of Second and Gardner streets on Feb. 26, 2021. Image: Jeri Davis / This Is Reno

Relocated homes in disrepair

To accommodate the construction of the originally planned development that failed to materialize after the onset of the Great Recession, two existing homes owned by Reno developer Mike Mardian and dating back to the early 20th century were moved from the site to a property Mardian owned at the corner of Second and Gardner streets. These buildings were intended to be renovated and turned into commercial space but have since fallen into disrepair.

This Is Reno reached out to Mardian to learn if the property and structures at Second and Gardner are still in his possession and what, if any, are the plans for them. This story may be updated if and when we receive a response.

Tree removal sparks outcry 

Locals were surprised to hear that for the new development to move forward, Urban Lion had plans to remove seven nearly century-old trees from the site. This sparked outrage on social media.

Reno City Council Member Naomi Duerr responded to the post, writing, “As the liaison to the Urban Forestry Commission and initiator of Releaf Reno—a project to double the trees in Reno—I was on this today. Trying to figure out what is going on and how we got here. Sounds like a decision that was made by a City Council 15 years ago (2006) has suddenly re-emerged. Will be doing all I can to save these trees. We will need everyone’s help.”

ReLeaf Reno is a city-sponsored program intended to preserve and expand the number of trees within the city’s limits. One tree at the site of the future development was torn out, but, for the time being, removal of the other trees has been stalled.

Duerr said she reached out to Urban Lion and received a positive response. Originally, the new development called for the removal of a dozen trees. Duerr said the developer is now working to change plans so that hopefully eight of those trees will remain on the property, including six old Elm trees growing alongside Jones Street on the north side of the project. Duerr said she is grateful to Urban Lion for showing a willingness to collaborate and change plans in order to preserve some of the trees.

A nearly century-old tree was felled on Washington Street to make way for Urban Lion's new development before community members and city officials stepped in on Feb. 25, 2021.
A nearly century-old tree was felled on Washington Street to make way for Urban Lion’s new development before community members and city officials stepped in on Feb. 25, 2021. Image: Jeri Davis / This Is Reno

Portion of Washington Street to be abandoned 

Tree removal is not the only thing expected to change with the building of the new development. When developers were still planning for Ponte Vecchio, they sought and received an abandonment of a block-long portion of Washington Street abutting Lunsford Park to the east. The new development will result in that portion of Washington Street being permanently closed and built into the project.

This Is Reno inquired with the City of Reno about the street abandonment, which some have questioned—asking why ownership and maintenance of it was not reverted to the city when the original development fell through.

City of Reno spokesperson Jon Humbert said the “roadway abandonment runs with the life of the property, and does not expire if the project goes away.”

For more than a decade, this portion of Washington Street has remained private property unbeknownst to most passersby.

Humbert added, “It doesn’t appear that the city has done any surface treatment or major maintenance, but likely only minor cleaning since the abandonment” of the street—which was officially recorded in city documents in 2008.

According to Urban Lion’s press release, “short-term site improvements will commence in the next 30 days on the parking lot adjacent to the Hub Coffee Roasters. The space, acting as a parking lot, was never officially permitted for use. However, the City approved the temporary lot until further plans were made for the site. In the development plan, there will be a more efficient use of space for parking with additional spots.”

Local architect Joe Snider has signed on to the project and has been designing structures in northern Nevada for more than 30 years. He said he plans to keep the character and charm of the already established neighborhood.

The new development is currently expected to be open for rentals in the summer of 2022.

Jeri Chadwell
Jeri Chadwellhttp://thisisreno.com
Jeri Chadwell came to Reno from rural Nevada in 2004 to study anthropology at the University of Nevada, Reno. In 2012, she returned to the university for a master’s degree in journalism. She is the former associate and news editor of the Reno News & Review and is a recipient of first-place Nevada Press Association awards for investigative and business reporting. Jeri is passionate about Nevada’s history, politics and communities.