Downtown Reno has always been a nexus of personality, charm, and a fair bit of discomfort. Industrial sites along the river have left areas of contamination, blight, and disconnection of the E. Fourth Street community from one of Reno’s top assets – the Truckee River. Some praise the vibrant, quirky culture downtown; others stigmatize the unsheltered population and prefer to avoid it.
Still, there are those looking to expand on the Fourth Street Riverhood while maintaining its unique identity. Plans like the East 4th Street Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) hope to redevelop blighted areas, safeguard the river, and create walkable areas in the Fourth Street corridor. Then, of course, there’s the Greater Nevada Field Stadium. Home to the Reno Aces and the formerly 1868 FC soccer team, the stadium has become a focal point for the potential of this area.
“The riverhood district has significant pockets of awesomeness with gaps in between,” Reno Aces President Eric Edelstein says. “Greater Nevada Field is on a little bit of an island in terms of the great things that are happening downtown, but I can feel the water shrinking. I can feel that the land is moving toward us as we're seeing things happen.”
Student housing developments and on-going redevelopments of old properties are bringing new life to downtown. Still, the district is not without its challenges. Brodhead Park, right beside the stadium, is home to a significant unsheltered community, and the area is considered dangerous by some. Fourth Street, know home to a budding brewery scene, is still just as much known for its unsheltered population near the homeless shelter. Many properties in the surrounding area are blighted. Building Greater Nevada Field here brought more restaurants, bars, and businesses to a part of town that was generally avoided by most. The result has become a thriving scene that continues to be a growing culture of Reno’s identity.
Or at least, it was before COVID-19 shutdown most national sports and events, including minor league baseball. Soccer games continued, with no fans in the seats, but ceased operations entirely at the end of the season.
Facing no current season and a blunted 2021 season, Edelstein says the stadium is mostly focused on finding ways to keep their community engaged. “So what we've tried to do is use the community who is used to gathering at the stadium and we've just tried to continue to be champions for that community.”
That currently means leaning into the Mask On, Move On Campaign. “Basically wear masks today so you can watch baseball in the spring,” Edelstein says.
Edelstein is supportive of initiatives that help all be sheltered safely but recognizes what the goals of the stadium are. “We're a place for the community to gather. And so having safe places for everyone to be sheltered ultimately is a sign of a healthy community and that's going to be the sign of a healthy downtown baseball stadium.”
Initiatives like the Downtown Reno Partnership, of which Edelstein is a board member, are still too underfunded to do the work that needs to be done for the unsheltered community, he says. Still, the DRP’s ambassadors have proven a strong resource. “The amount of work that they've been able to do for the unsheltered community that is willing and interested in getting assistance, they've been able to connect people to that assistance and I think that's also been a big step forward.”
Edelstein admits the Aces team is more internally focused right now: they’re just trying to ride out the pandemic. Still, that doesn’t mean they’re not looking forward.
Greater Nevada Field recently bought a parcel of land near the river. While there are no concrete plans as of yet, Edelstein is open to ideas, including regenerative ones. “It's still probably a few years away, but that there will be a development on that boondock site that will open up to the river and activate the river just in another place in downtown. And hopefully, create more connectivity.”
Edelstein’s dream riverhood is one that’s vibrant and walkable, citing the growing student population as well as continuing housing developments in previously blighted areas downtown. “I think there's an incredible opportunity, as a living population moves that way,” he says. “Because blight doesn't like a light shined on it. That's going to be our best opportunity to really make something special down there. But it's all right there and the pieces are coming together. So the more that we can start to be cohesive and then talk to each other, I think we can accelerate all of that growth as well.”
As we continue to move forward, considering all our residents, from baseball fans to unsheltered river residents, there is the opportunity for regenerative growth in ways not previously seen in Western Nevada. The Riverhood and Fourth Street Nexus are especially primed for such an opportunity.