Reno Gazette Journal
While pondering how to create the ideal living room, Reno developer Par Tolles did what many folks would do: he asked his friends and family.
Then again, the space that Tolles was envisioning wasn’t just for himself. Without batting an eye, the founder of Tolles Development Company says he wants to create the Biggest Little City’s “living room” for his next venture, a $40-million mixed-use retail, dining and office project on prime Reno real estate at Rancharrah.
That would be the same Rancharrah that once served as the personal estate of the late casino magnate Bill Harrah. Tolles initially found himself consulting with Reno Land Inc., which bought the 141-acre property in 2015, on how to best complement the residential side of the project with a commercial component dubbed “The Village.” To his surprise, Reno Land managing partner Chip Bowlby eventually asked Tolles if he would just like to do that portion of Rancharrah himself.
Given the property’s history and location, Tolles says there was no shortage of interest from national developers on that piece of Rancharrah property.
“I often describe Rancharrah as the last large parcel of influence in Reno,” Tolles said. “(Reno Land Inc.) could’ve made more money but they were committed to making this local and have it done by builders who know what locals need and want.”
With the deal on nearly 13 acres of Rancharrah land officially closing late Thursday, the ball is now firmly in Tolles’ court to deliver an attraction that would bring locals to The Village.
Tolles says he is quite aware that a segment of the population is not happy that Rancharrah has been opened up to development. As a result, he feels an even bigger sense of urgency to get things right. Plans for the property include 65,000 square feet of retail and 40,000 square feet of office space. Also on tap for The Village are 10 restaurants, Tolles said.
One positive is that more people can experience Rancharrah now, with The Village being a big part of that. Although the addition of residential development opens up Rancharrah to more people, the upscale nature of its housing and private club still gives it an air of exclusivity that’s out of reach of the masses. The Village is supposed to be the bridge that allows the rest of the public to enjoy that Rancharrah experience.
This focus on accessibility is the driving force for the living room concept that Tolles envisions for The Village, which will start construction this year and is eyeing a completion date of late 2019 or early 2020. For inspiration, Tolles is drawing from a variety of sources, including Reno’s own Midtown as well as successful centers outside of the area.
“We’re creating a lot of what we and our friends and our wives would like to see (and) we’re building a place where we want to be at,” Tolles said. “We think that this can be the most attractive and compelling gathering post in Reno.”
Artist renderings of The Village center at Rancharrah in Reno, which shows locations for its planned amenities.
In designing what offerings will be available at The Village, Tolles is focusing on three things.
“Local, local, local,” said Kyle Rea, vice president of finance and operations for the Tolles Development Company.
Rea pointed to the success of Reno’s Midtown, an area where the company is now heavily invested, as something Tolles would like to emulate for its latest project. The result is a recipe that includes a mix of soft goods such as apparel, combined with jewelry, health and fitness, and food and beverage options such as coffee, wine, craft beers and craft cocktails.
Capturing that Midtown vibe has become a common mantra among developers for all sorts of projects ever since a group of small business owners transformed the neighborhood from an area that residents either shunned or were apathetic to into a popular destination for dining, shopping or hanging out. It has also led to a bit of Midtown fatigue from the standpoint of leveraging or creating the next version of the trendy spot, especially as bigger developers enter the picture to capitalize on its success in a less organic way.
Tolles, however, says he has no interest in simply appropriating Midtown’s concept. Tolles stressed that his company is serious about emulating its best parts for The Village while avoiding some of its ongoing challenges. Parking, for example, is a long-standing problem for Midtown visitors. Tolles says his company also has been in talks with Midtown businesses about either opening locations in The Village or simply providing feedback about its design, Tolles said. Tolles declined to reveal which Midtown businesses he has talked to.
“The Village will never be Midtown, but the shopkeepers and patrons that have made Midtown great have had a major influence in the design,” Tolles said. “And I have to say they are very excited about a retail experience with ample parking.”
Interest from potential merchants and businesses has been strong, with Tolles saying they have amassed a large waiting list of companies looking to enter The Village. The letters of intent that Tolles has received would fill up 80 percent of the project if all of them were accepted, he said. Tolles says the company has already said no to some national “big box” players who wanted to have a space in the center. Although The Village will have regional businesses, Tolles is consciously trying to keep them to a minimum.
“We felt that they would be a fire hose to the local offerings and scare off some local folks who we want to be here,” Tolles said.
In addition to Midtown, Tolles also mentioned the South Creek shopping center, which has the feel of a small village, as another local inspiration. The Market at Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa is another source of influence for the project, as is the Santana Row shopping center in Silicon Valley, which was also mentioned as an inspiration for the Park Lane project.
The Village, however, will be dialed down compared to the aforementioned California developments. The goal is to add a dash of what makes those projects attractive while avoiding the generic, cookie-cutter approach that has come to define retail centers in previous decades.“
Sometimes, Napa can seem unapproachable and sometimes commercial centers in Reno can feel mundane,” Rea said. “This is a perfect middle point between that.”
Although Tolles wants The Village to feel fresh by leveraging some of the new concepts seen in other areas, he also wants to make sure it has a feel that exudes Reno while meshing well with the image of Rancharrah.
One person who believes that Tolles is up to the task is the guy who he bought the property from, Reno Land’s Bowlby.
“I’ve worked closely with Par throughout the years and I can’t think of a better person to take the reigns of The Village at Rancharrah,” Bowlby said. “Par is intrinsically connected to the history, culture and aesthetics of Reno and has always shared in a collective vision of what the community can become.”
Despite not using the familiar green-and-white theme of Harrah’s former estate, The Village will emulate that sense of comfort and relaxation that the casino magnate once offered to guests of his mansion, Rea said.
Two things that kept coming up in the company’s talks with Midtown merchants was walkability and connectivity. Those two concepts are readily apparent in The Village’s design, which includes breezeways and easy access from one end to the other. The design also incorporates Reno’s four seasons, including fire pits and heating elements to ensure that visitors can still comfortably experience its outdoor amenities even during the winter as well as enclosed patios and covered areas to protect people from the elements.
In addition to retail and office space, dining will be a big focus of The Village which plans to have a row of restaurants plus waterfront dining by Rancharrah’s pond, which will feature a familiar name that the company is not ready to publicly reveal yet.
“You can park your car and pick a cup of coffee here or maybe a glass of wine and small bites over there,” Rea said. “It’s very much a walking pedestrian-friendly village.”
To bring the concept to life, Tolles hired Silicon Valley-based Devcon construction, which has an office in Reno. Tolles says he is a big fan of the company’s work on Reno’s Freight House District and Aces Ballpark. The company also worked on high-profile Bay Area projects such as Levi’s Stadium as well as buildings for Adobe, Netflix and Cisco.
Mention of the Freight House District, which has seen its share of challenges over the years, including with foot traffic, raised the issue of how even a well-designed building with an interesting concept can struggle. Tolles, however, believes The Village has a built-in advantage.
“We are the Freight House District’s biggest fans but that location is very much in transition,” Tolles said. “Rancharrah is a well-established location that bridges downtown and south Reno.”
Reno also has a maturing scene for restaurants, craft beer, craft cocktails and boutique fashion so it should be ready for what The Village is planning to offer, Rea added. Such a diverse set of offerings is especially important in an age where retail is dominated by the Walmarts and the Amazons of the world, which is forcing traditional malls and shopping centers to add offerings that you can’t get online such as more dining options, for example.
And while the convenience of online shopping can’t be beaten, Tolles believes that there’s still something to be said about hanging out at a local destination and mingling with people.
“People still want a place where they can go and mix in,” Tolles said. “That’s why Starbucks is so popular — it created a living room where people can meet. We hope to create Reno’s living room.”
Source: Reno Gazette Journal
Read Full Article – https://www.rgj.com/story/money/business/2018/05/04/village-midtown-reno-living-room-rancharrah/577484002/