The Reno City Council on Wednesday approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for CAI Investments to build a skyway over East Commercial Row.
The skyway would connect the new Reno City Center, a mixed-use residential renovation in the old Harrah’s tower downtown, to what’s known as the Whitney Peak parking garage on Plaza Street.
Five hundred employees are expected to work in City Center offices, and the skyway would provide a walkway for the workers to access the offices.
The skyway will span the street and the old Harrah’s plaza as a semi-enclosed space with powder-coated mesh siding, metal slanted roof and concrete floor. The columns of the skyway will be painted with murals.
Council member Naomi Duerr said she was in favor of the project but added she was worried that it would prevent people from being on the ground.
“We always want people on the ground in our city to have a lively urban environment, and I think that that’s 300 or more people who aren’t on the ground,” she said.
Historian Alicia Barber expressed the same concerns prior to the meeting.
“There’s nothing less conducive to promoting the vitality of your city’s streets than constructing skyways over them,” she wrote in her May 24 Barber Brief. “I find it deeply cynical for a company—especially one whose offices are already located downtown—to go to such lengths to avoid forcing its employees to set foot on Reno’s downtown sidewalks.”
City of Reno planner Nathan Gilbert told council the skyway would only be used by the employees in the commercial offices at the City Center, who would need employee keycards to access the skyway.
Others would not have access to it.
“I don’t get exactly why they need it but … I’m not opposed to it and I like the process that was followed very much,” Duerr said.
The skyway approval passed with Council member Jenny Brekhus in opposition.
Meridian 120 South development discussion gets heated
Council members also reviewed Meridian 120 South, a luxury home development for more than 3,000 units near Verdi. It is one of a few massive developments near Verdi that has neighbors concerned.
The city’s planning commission proposed that the council delete certain conditions from the plan.
One condition proposed a temporary emergency access to Interstate 80 be put in during construction. A secondary road is already under construction, so the temporary emergency access was deemed unnecessary.
Another requirement was the construction of triplexes in the development’s residential area. The condition required the developer, Bates Homes, to provide documentation showing mutually agreed upon reallocation of units, but the existing residents of this neighborhood are suing the developer and the plans are on hold.
The judge dismissed this lawsuit so the neighbors brought it to the Nevada Supreme Court. Bates Homes only has four years to get approval for the tentative map.
Garrett Gordon, who’s representing Bates, said the lawsuit was frivolous.
“We’re already at two years in good faith going through a text amendment process that has been stopped,” he said.
Gordon further said that if the council did not approve the amendments, an additional allocation of donated land for a new fire station in the area would be canceled.
City Attorney Karl Hall said a three-acre property as part of the project was going to be dedicated for the new fire station.
Council member Neoma Jardon said she was offended.
“I am a little offended today as I stand here, that somehow a condition that we put in and that you agreed to in good faith, you are now going to say, ‘we’re now going to take that back unless you give us a plus-plus,’” Jardon said. “Mr. Gordon, that is not what my understanding was, and that has been affirmed by our city attorney today.
“You’re telling me that if you don’t get these additional units, above the 3,000, that you’re going to take away the land that you dedicated, in good faith, back.”
Gordon, in response, said the project’s tentative map has six villages with 32 conditions.
“Nothing’s been dedicated,” he said. “Without the 285 triplex units, it appears this project does not pencil anymore so there’s no reason to comply with any conditions, and the project’s dead. Nothing was given yet. We’ll comply with all those conditions if approved.”
The motion to cancel the amendments passed 4 to 3 with Brekhus, Duerr and Jardon, whose ward includes the development, in opposition.
Gateway at Galena annexation
The developers of Gateway at Galena requested the annexation of 18600 Wedge Parkway, near the University of Nevada Redfield Campus, just off the Mount Rose Highway.
The developer, Pacific West Companies, said the annexation would help to further the Reno Master Plan because it would allow for a residential area to be developed on the land. Right now the plan is to build a neighborhood of 80 condos.
The annexation was approved with Brekhus in opposition.