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Jacobs Entertainment to announce workforce housing plans as part of Neon Line development

By Bob Conrad

Plans for the so-called Neon Line District will be shared with select news media sources on Monday in advance of the virtual meeting with the public. The City of Reno this week moved from in-person to a virtual meeting for the public to participate in hearing about plans by Jacobs Entertainment for the west downtown development. 

Officials said increased cases of COVID-19 in the community prompted the meeting’s change. 

The Colorado-based company has been criticized for not involving the public in its plans for developing west downtown Reno. 

Anjeanette Damon, reporter for ProPublica, hosted on Dec. 10 a panel on affordable housing after her investigation into plans for the lots made vacant after Jacobs razed numerous weekly motels. 

She reported: “City leaders have not used Jacobs’ project as leverage to increase and improve affordable housing options. They’ve been reluctant to slow what they see as an opportunity unlike any in recent history to remake the city. They’ve been enthusiastic boosters of the project, waiving requirements and making phone calls to property owners on Jacobs’ behalf.”

Jacobs Entertainment’s local attorney Garrett Gordon got on the panel, after not initially being billed as a participant, and was criticized for what some participants said was a lack of understanding about what poor people in Reno experience.

Vacant lots that are part of the proposed Neon Line District.

“Inventory is coming,” Gordon said during the discussion about the need for workforce housing. “Going forward, any apartments [Jacobs] builds will have 10% affordable housing included in that project. That doesn’t not pencil out for what [Jacobs CEO Jeff Jacobs] paid for the land.”

Gordon said plans for the district were not finalized but would include up to 3,000 new units – built over 20 years – and an amphitheater. 

“Jacobs pays fair market value for every property in that area,” he said. “We have to plan the whole district in order to figure out how you build the affordable housing while you move forward with the bulk of the project. The next time we come forward with a vision [it will include] how we make workforce housing and affordable housing pencil [out]. It’s at the top of our list.”

Reno City Manager Doug Thornley said the city has not received specific plans from Jacobs on affordable housing projects, but his staff will be present for Monday’s virtual meeting. (Register here to attend.)

“Our team will provide an overview of the master plan, zoning code, redevelopment documents and other previous policy decisions by the city council as a way of providing a foundation for the conversation with all of the workshop participants,” he said. “Generally speaking, the project proposes up to 3,000 new housing units in a mixed use environment that includes new entertainment elements.”

Thornley added that as applications come in from Jacobs Entertainment, the city’s zoning code controls the review and approval process. 

“We’re looking forward to better understanding the community’s concerns about how this effort takes shape,” he said.

Select media invited to attend media briefing

Only certain news sources were invited to talk with Jeff Jacobs on Monday.

“Jeffrey Jacobs, the creator of Reno’s Neon Line District, invites you to participate in a conversation about affordable workforce housing updates within the District on Monday, January 10 at 2pm,” is part of an invitation some media sources received this week from Abbi Agency, the PR firm that represents Jacobs Entertainment.

Media sources that have written extensively about Jacobs Entertainment confirmed to This Is Reno they were not invited.

One source, speaking anonymously, said it was “a clear attempt to generate publicity from more favorable news outlets.”

A representative for the Abbi Agency confirmed the in person meeting with Jeff Jacobs was only for “a few media.”

“We are still doing individual invites but gradually because we have limited space and want to be cognizant of social distancing,” said the agency’s Alli Williams. 

The media briefing is at the Sands, which is owned by Jacobs Entertainment. Williams did not respond to questions about Jacobs’ affordable housing plans. 

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