Downtown Reno Partnership celebrates first year reshaping community’s core

Last November, the Downtown Reno Partnership and its Ambassadors appeared in uniform for the first time at the Veteran’s Day Parade. Since then, we’ve added more ambassadors, partnered with the University of Nevada, Reno, hired marketing and economic development managers and helped move the needle in making downtown Reno safer, cleaner and friendlier.

Aside from the additional police team and the added maintenance services the City of Reno continues to provide through a portion of the assessment from the DRP, we now have 20 ambassadors (up from 14) that are split into three shifts and serve downtown residents, students and tourists. UNR even hired its own shifts of ambassadors to cover Wolf Pack Tower and students’ commute to and from campus.

In only 10 months, they changed the downtown environment noticeably. Nuisance calls to the police have declined by almost 20%, according to Reno Police, partially because the ambassadors catch many of those nuisances and address them before a call to the police is needed. Business owners, residents and visitors have noticed the change and have told us so at our quarterly town halls and during special events.

Alex Stettinski, executive director for the Downtown Reno Partnership

The ambassadors have reported over 900 graffiti incidents, returned over 500 abandoned shopping carts and collected over 100 bags of trash to list a small portion of their impact. They also have a big impact on our homeless population. They helped place about 50 individuals into long-term treatment programs.

In October, they changed their approach to focus on one person in need at a time. Our social outreach team helped a man find short-term housing, then followed up with him each day to ensure he remained sober, contacted other service providers to work with him and helped him move into long-term housing.

In fact, 12 of our 20 current ambassadors were homeless and drug addicted themselves. They know the challenges of experiencing homelessness firsthand. Today, they use their experience to connect with homeless individuals and patiently reconnect with them until those people are willing and ready to change their situations.  

Through the DRP’s marketing program, visitors and locals are proactively reminded of the wonderful experiences people can have in downtown, which was often overshadowed by its negative reputation. Our marketing efforts help local businesses receive media attention during the holidays and tells people about new experiences, food and retail options.

Our economic development program already secured a $35,000 grant from the Governor Office of Economic Development. Grant funds were used to add 12 bike racks downtown and two vinyl window coverings created by local artists to temporarily beautify vacant storefronts.

We also helped the City of Reno repair the electrical outlets on its Virginia Street tress so that we could install permanent lights on them.

We are also building a database of property and retail inventory to better inform brokers, developers and builders of opportunities to open new business, expand or build. Our goal is to help fill vacancies and make better use of available land.

Downtown Reno is in major transition and it will take a few more years until it is what it deserves to be: a vibrant core, which attracts locals as much as visitors, regionally, nationally and internationally. Is the Downtown Reno Partnership the ultimate solution to solve homelessness and blight, and bring in a more diversified mix of retail offerings? Absolutely not, but it is an important catalyst for those goals.

We are looking forward to another year of continued progress, improvements and effective collaborations.

More detail about the DRP’s first year results is available in the 2019-2019 Annual Report.

Alex Stettinski is the Executive Director of the Downtown Reno Partnership, a nonprofit organization that manages the downtown Reno Business Improvement District formed in June 2018.

This article originally appeared in the Reno Gazette Journal online and in the Dec. 1 print edition.

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