How Do You Become the Catalyst for The Reno You Want to Call Home?

By July 7, 2017 July 12th, 2017 Business

Conscious Capitalism? Until a chapter came to Reno, I didn’t know what to call what I’ve done all my life. Four Principles guiding a conscious business: Higher Purpose, Stakeholder Engagement, Conscious Leadership and a Culture that fosters your higher purpose. That’s how what Gensler is all about (brief background) and The Don J Clark Group as well.

I was retired, consulting, but unsatisfied.  I had a lifetime of knowledge, relationships with people and vast experience. At 70 (now 73), I was far too young not to share my experiences with people around me. I was always an “innovator.” Lots of grand ideas, most if which never reached fruition . . . but many did. I couldn’t just quit. I might as well crawl into a corner and die. My challenge to you: how can each of us use the wisdom we’ve gained over time to take a leadership role in our community to truly make it a place that we can all take pride in? I’m not here to show you pretty pictures, but to encourage you to take your own, personal brand and style of leadership and help our community evolve. Two important words: ASPIRE/INSPIRE

How did I get to Reno? . . . and why? I was looking at Asheville, NC, Austin, TX, Nashville TN . . . and Reno? Reminded me of the Beverly Hills hotel . . . there’s not much here to be proud of. Despite the River Park and the train trench, the unfinished ReTrac lids; there was too little that people in the city had built to be proud of. Sure, RTIC, but what about our city; our neighborhoods.  Mid-town was making a little progress, but my friends from other parts of the country still teased me a lot about picking Reno. Who could blame them? My psychic memory dates back to the 1960 Winter Olympics in Squaw Valley.

But I found the warmest, most friendly and helpful people . . . and boundless opportunity. Met Mike Kazmierski, Ty Cobb, and Dick Bartholet . . . (who introduced me to Don & Susan Clark)

First meeting: “I’m tired of working for developers who don’t think “long,” making short-cycle decisions that do nothing for our community. A kindred soul! He had set out, with West 2nd District to create a community built by and for our community.

So, what is it? 32 buildings on 17 acres, 7 city blocks. At full build-out it will provide 2,000 new residential units – 80% cond./20% apt. (20% of the apartments will rent at 80% AMI; 50% of the condos will be eligible for Home is Possible program (less than $95K annual income; less than $400K), 500,000 SF of office, 250,000 SF of retail and restaurant and two hotels.

Because this is a redevelopment district no discretionary approvals are required. The district allows us to go as tall as we want with as much square footage as we can sell or rent. Why do we have this latitude? It’s all about the property tax rolls. The City borrowed $24 million of senior bond debt and nothing to show for it. Today, $160,000 in property taxes are generated per annum; when complete, $12.5 million per annum. We’ll pay off that senior debt in 5 years.

But, what else? It’s not just about the money. We asked what we could do at a district scale?  Central utilities plant. Fiber optics – 1 gig (expandable to 100). GPS locater for 911 calls, shot spotter straight to police station, central NOC/SOC, Consolidated HOA for security, landscape maintenance, building exteriors, elevators, heating and cooling, on-site sewage treatment for irrigation, cooling towers, flushing toilets . . .

. . .and, in the future, to grow food. Parking demand will diminish dramatically as autonomous vehicles enter our communities. Let’s plant those empty parking structures. This would be impossible to accomplish, a building at a time.

So, there’s an elephant in the room: it’s taken a long time for us to raise the equity to buy land and get buildings to rise out of this terribly blighted district.  Why? Reno factor until recently; Investors want to build a building at a time so they can sell them as stand-alone units to quickly recover their investment.

Other developers have asked, “How can you afford to do all this innovative stuff? It must be costing a fortune.” Well actually not . . . it’s cheaper to build in the first place and cheaper to operate and maintain.

I said earlier, it’s not all about pretty pictures. The resulting “look and feel” of West 2nd District will, indeed, be beautiful.  But not for the usual reasons – walkable, all parking fed from the perimeter creating large pedestrian zones within the project. Unlike a grid iron street pattern, buildings don’t look into one another, they look past each other.

What other opportunities remain for you to lead? Real estate development for certain.  The retail study we commissioned indicated that an additional 100,000 feet of demand are out there, so there will be ample opportunities to repopulate the abandoned buildings and closed pawn shops along 2nd Street, the east side of Sierra and Virginia Streets.  There are vacant parcels or underutilized parcels between West Street and Arlington.  We hope our district will provide the catalyst that makes it feasible to refill these places.  Then, of course, there’s the vacant land and underutilized buildings between City Hall and the ballpark.

Now, let’s talk about failures and persistence. Monorails: school conversions: I’ve spent time over the past two years on a Street Car to run along Virginia Street from Mackay stadium and UNR, through downtown, mid-town to the Convention Center. I admit to having dropped the “Leadership” ball on that program, but, once we have West 2nd District well underway, I’ll go back to it. Why? Economic stimulus. Kansas City is a great example of how powerful this is. Fixed platforms are like money in the bank for lenders, generating strong pedestrian traffic every day.

So, now it’s your turn.  Look around you and ask yourself, “What’s missing from the city around me that would make Reno a better place, one that when visitors and friends come to town, they ask, “Hmmm . . . and why are you here?” Instead they say, “Reno is the model for the future.  We want to be part of it!”

Ed Friedrichs

About Ed Friedrichs

Ed completed his undergraduate degree in pre-architecture at Stanford University in 1965 and received his Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1968. He joined Gensler (now the largest and most respected architecture, design and planning firm in the world) in San Francisco in 1969, opening the firm’s Los Angeles office in 1976. In 1995, he was appointed President and, in 2000, Chief Executive Officer of the firm, leading its development as one of the most successful and influential design firms in the world. Since moving to Reno in late 2014 is working as a development partner on the West 2nd District, led by the Don J Clark Group. He is a co-chair of the Reno Streetcar Coalition, which is providing leadership to construct a streetcar line connecting the University of Nevada Reno with downtown, mid-town and the convention center along Virginia Street.