The blighted lot that used to be Park Lane Mall is about to get redeveloped, with the plan calling for a mix of retail and office space and rental properties, some of which might be reserved for low-income residents.
Reno Urban Developers owner Chip Bowlby is in escrow to purchase the 45-acre plot at Plumb and Virginia streets that has sat empty since the mall was demolished seven years ago. Bowlby is also developing the Rancharrah master planned community and Summit Club Apartments in southwest Reno.
“This is where the hipsters want to be,” Bowlby said of what would be Reno’s largest urban land redevelopment since the recession. “I want it to be where people can live, work and play.”
Bowlby would not disclose his purchase price, but said the asking price was more than $30 million.
The lot is one of Reno’s largest vacant, blighted properties. For comparison, all of downtown Reno’s casinos and the Reno Events Center combined take up the same acreage.
“The redevelopment of the Park Lake Mall property has been a top priority for the city of Reno for nearly seven years,” Mayor Hillary Schieve said in a press release. “To see a locally managed firm step up with a vision for housing, retail and office space is great news for the city and its residents.
The redevelopment of this critical piece of land can make a deep and lasting impact on the core of our city.”
The Century Park Lane 16 movie theater is on a separate parcel owned by another company and was not included in the sale agreement. Bowlby said he wants to start collaborating with the owners on the future of the land around the theater.
Bowlby’s plans for the land fall in line with suggestions made by the Urban Land Institute during a Friday presentation to developers and city officials. The panel said the Park Lane Mall lot bookends the core of the city with the University of Nevada, Reno on the north and should include a welcome monument, similar to the Reno Arch.
Unlike Rancharrah, which is geared toward high-income homeowners, Bowlby said the Park Lane lot makes more sense for a mix of apartment rentals and workforce housing priced below market rate for low-income earners. The lot has no building height limits, which would allow high-density use for at least 1,000 units, he said.
“Local apartment stock is below standard, expensive and a mismatch for corporate relocation efforts,” according to the Urban Land Institute presentation. “Of the 41,000 units in the region, 48 percent are reportedly Class C, which is well below institutional grade. Yet, rents for those units are $868 per month for a typical two bedroom. … The remaining units are a variety of Class B product and serve the local workforce housing needs, but units are old and rents are high at $1,038 for a two bedroom.”
High-end apartments in the region are also “insufficient” to house the corporate relocations, at $1,137 per month for a two bedroom, according to the ULI presentation.
Bowlby said he hopes people will start to consider the lot part of the Midtown district once development around the lot builds up.
Bowlby is also an Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada board member and knows what industries are looking at Reno. He said he wants to attract more office and retail to the future development, such as Urban Outfitters, Patagonia, REI, West Elm and similar ilk. He briefly mentioned attracting a medical company, but said it’s too early to know specific details.
Bowlby said he will start planning with engineers and architects after all the feasibility studies and sale are completed. He said he wants to break ground within a year. The entire lot needs a fresh start since it’s full of weeds and disintegrating asphalt.
Park Lane Mall originally opened in 1967. In 1998, Max Baer Jr., the actor who played Jethro Bodine on “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV show, proposed a casino project on the site that would include a 240-foot oil derrick with a 70-foot flame shooting out of the top, according to RGJ archives.
In 2006, M&H Realty Partners (now Merlone Geier Partners) bought the land, according to Washoe County Assessor records. It was razed from 2007 to 2009 and left barren. In 2009, M&H Realty’s plans for a Park Lane Promenade were found by Downtown Makeover. Again in 2013, a special use permit was filed with the city of Reno for a Park Lane Promenade under the new Merlone Geier Partners name. Both were plans for an outdoor strip mall with a large anchor tenant similarly designed to The Summit mall in south Reno. Neither plan ever materialized.
Now, seagulls use the weed-infested dirt lot as a nesting ground.