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City staff now say Community Assistance Center needs $10 million to rehab

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Appraisals recommend sale for multi-family housing

Property appraisals completed in May for downtown Reno’s Community Assistance and Triage/Drop-In Centers (CAC) reveal that repairing the buildings to bring them back into service would cost an estimated $10.1 million—nearly four times the amount previously reported by city staff. 

As recently as April 10 of this year, the city’s Revitalization Manager, Bryan McArdle, said the estimated cost to repair the buildings was $2.75 million. That number has been used since at least September 2023, when the extent of the buildings’ damages was revealed to council members and the community.

The newly revealed and increased costs for repairs are part of the recommendations from two appraisers who found the best use of the properties, located at 315 and 355 Record Street, would be for demolition and redevelopment into multi-family housing. 

The property fell into disrepair and was not kept up after its residents moved to the Nevada Cares Campus in 2021. It officially closed in 2023.

An email from City of Reno Staff to Council member Jenny Brekhus in January 2023 providing an update on staff plans for the Community Assistance Center.
An email from City of Reno Staff to Council member Jenny Brekhus in January 2023 providing an update on staff plans for the Community Assistance Center.

The appraisals were included in a request for proposals issued late last week by the City of Reno. In April, Reno City Council members directed staff to secure the appraisals and then issue the request following an unsolicited development proposal from Bash Capital that drew criticism.

That proposal, and the subsequent council meeting, spurred heated discussion about the CAC’s future. Many in the community, along with Council members Jenny Brekhus, Naomi Duerr and Megan Ebert, were frustrated by the city’s failure to maintain the buildings, suggesting they had become victims of “demolition by neglect.”

Mayor Hillary Schieve appeared upset at that meeting because people were accusing city officials of having closed-door meetings with Bash representatives to have the company take over the property. Public records obtained by This Is Reno show that’s exactly what happened: Officials, including Schieve and Council member Kathleen Taylor, both met with Bash representatives prior to the April meeting.

Damages and repairs

The CAC and Triage Center were built in 2005 and 2007 for $20 million using concrete and steel and concrete tilt-up construction, respectively. Construction experts say such buildings should have a lifespan of 40-50 years at minimum and potentially up to 100 years.

After fewer than two decades of use, however, appraisers noted extensive signs of deferred maintenance and evaluated the buildings as being in fair to poor condition. The buildings have been heavily vandalized and are uninhabitable.

In April, McArdle told council members that the buildings had received “heavy use” over their lifetime, resulting in “substantial degradation.” 

“Much of this degradation occurred even before the last of the tenants moved out,” McArdle told council members at the April 10 city council meeting. City records, however, also document long-term neglect of the buildings.

A facilities maintenance presentation from the city’s maintenance and operations department provided to the city manager and other city leaders in February 2023 showed that despite being deemed part of the city’s “essential operations” and a high-use employee and public-occupied building, the CAC and Triage Center received only a fraction of the maintenance hours required. 

According to the document, the buildings would require about 2,900 hours of maintenance per year based on industry standards, but in a one-year time across 2020 and 2021 received only about one-third of that effort. City staff spent 685 hours maintaining the CAC and 285 on the Triage Center. 

McArdle said that in the 14 months the building had been vacant—since February 2023—it had been broken into 13 times and was vandalized. The buildings’ wiring and copper pipes were stolen, roof leaks led to extensive mold, both elevators had been decommissioned, and the boilers were dismantled. The city manager’s office never submitted any insurance claims for the damage.

McArdle suggested that security for the building was estimated to cost $300,000 per year, so city officials simply boarded up the windows and doors. Security patrols were assigned to make a stop at the buildings during their normal rounds, but around-the-clock security was not approved. 

Documents included in the RFP, however, show security services for the building—when it was still in operation—averaged $175,000 per year. That same document shows that, over a five-year period, more was spent on security services for the building—$872,780—than on maintenance and repairs—$730,080. 

A document provided to the appraisers and included in the RFP shows a breakdown of the $10.1 million in estimated costs to restore the buildings. No details are included identifying how those numbers were determined, and city staff did not respond to a request for more detailed information.

The Triage Center at 315 Record Street’s repairs are estimated at $3.8 million. Another $6.3 million was estimated for repairs to the CAC at 355 Record Street. 

Is the tail wagging the dog?

Some questioned how the Record Street buildings were allowed to reach such a state of disrepair. 

Alicia Barber

“It does boggle the mind,” historian Alicia Barber said. “How was this kind of damage allowed to happen to city buildings located just six blocks from City Hall?”

Local housing and homelessness advocate Ilya Arbatman agreed. 

“I think there is no contesting that these properties have been demolished by neglect, as was essentially confessed in the City Manager’s memorandum of last year,” he said. 

Arbatman also said that, although he sees the RFP process as a win because it provides for greater accountability and transparency in what happens to the CAC, he maintains his “cynicism about what the powers-that-be already have in mind for the site.” 

“The City and the appraisals have spun this project to create the impression, for investors and developers, that ‘the City no longer has a public need for the facilities,’ as stated in the main RFP document,” he said. “Despite the fact that the buildings are no longer actively in use serving our unhoused population, there are still dozens of people living all around the CAC, on Record Street, by the railroad tracks, in the alleys. This is the very ‘public’ that the city alleges ‘no longer has a need’ for the CAC.”

Both appraisals used the $10.1 million repair estimate to justify the demolition of the buildings and redevelopment of the parcels to multi-family housing as the “highest and best use” of the property.  

“All I can surmise, given the rest of the information and the appraisals’ recommendations … is that the push here is, in fact, to tear the buildings down,” Arbatman said. “Even though an RFP is an open process, the city can frame the terms of the conversation. I am deeply disappointed that there is no conversation whatsoever about ‘reactivating’ the CAC for its actual, intended purpose.”

City officials now point to Washoe County as the region’s homeless services provider as part of why the CAC won’t be used to shelter people.

Council member Brekhus in April said she also felt that city staff was leading the conversation on the CAC’s future rather than council members being allowed to take the lead.

Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus.
Reno City Council member Jenny Brekhus.

“Your recommendation is to engage with [Bash Capital], so by assumption the decision has been made,” Brekhus said in April, responding to city staff’s recommendation to enter into a purchase agreement for the properties. “The council needed to have that discussion. I cannot make that decision that it goes on the disposal list until I’ve been in it.”

Council member Ebert agreed at the time, saying that council members should have discussed the property’s future long before staff came to the council recommending its sale. 

In January 2023, council members were told city staff would bring a discussion of the CAC property to a council meeting “in the future” and that the staff was exploring security and “short-term options to activate the site with city operational needs.” In July, according to an email among city leadership, discussion of the CAC remained in the “unscheduled” portion of the city’s agenda planner. 

Instead, from January through September 2023, as the buildings’ conditions rapidly declined, city staff exchanged emails about roof leaks, problems with the buildings’ security and people camping outside. They provided information to developers who were working on proposals to redevelop the site, rebuffed requests from advocates to reopen the facilities as a women’s and children’s shelter, and they confirmed that a developer could receive $500,000 in sewer fixture credits within five years of the buildings’ demolition. 

Details unclear in RFP

Interested applicants have until July 19 to submit proposals in response to the city’s RFP for 315 and 355 Record Street. The document states that projects can be submitted for “any development concept that is financially feasible” but warns against “reestablishment of blight.” The stated goals for the property are to address affordable workforce housing, increase housing density, contribute to the quality of life and be sustainable. 

Once submissions are received, they’ll be reviewed by a five-member committee selected by the city manager’s office. The document does not indicate whether the committee will consist of city staff, redevelopment experts, elected officials or community members. It also does not indicate whether proposals or the committee’s meetings will be made public.

The RFP also outlines an evaluation process for awarding points based on “the selection content set forth in this document.” It notes that 100 points are available in the categories listed, but it’s unclear what the categories or “selection content” are within the RFP or the maximum points for each category. 

The complete RFP packet can be read or downloaded below.

https://www.slideshare.net/slideshow/rfp-for-reno-s-community-assistance-center/269578103

Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth
Kristen Hackbarth is a freelance editor and communications professional with more than 20 years’ experience working in marketing, public relations and communications in northern Nevada. Kristen graduated from the University of Nevada, Reno with a degree in photography and minor in journalism and has a Master of Science in Management and Leadership. She also serves as director of communications for Nevada Cancer Coalition, a statewide nonprofit. Though she now lives in Atlanta, she is a Nevadan for life and uses her three-hour time advantage to get a jump on the morning’s news.

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