In an on-going effort to improve public space, Downtown Reno Partnership has teamed up with the City of Reno, Nevada Main Street and Bloomberg Philanthropies to bring vibrancy back into Downtown Reno. Collectively, the partnership’s recent $180,000 donation will complete a project conceptualized over a half century ago and will transform an industrial ‘eyesore’ into a beautiful park space for everyone to enjoy.

The City of Reno once rattled with train noise, horns and exhaust fumes as one of the largest transportation hubs in Northern Nevada for the Union Pacific Railroad. In the early 1940s, the Reno Transportation Rail Access Corridor, ReTRAC, was proposed to improve the overall quality of life in Reno. The project was completed in 2005, successfully depressing 2.25 miles of railroad tracks below city streets.

After more than a decade-long-wait, innovative partnerships have come together to enhance the ReTRAC East Plaza concrete and dirt space between the Whitney Peak Hotel and Eldorado Resort Casino on Virginia Street. Residents and visitors can now look forward to a welcoming and aesthetically pleasing space.

ReTRAC was just three-years-old when the Great Recession devastated Northern Nevada. The project was forced to halt and left both physical and metaphorical empty spaces in the heart of Downtown Reno.

Designed to be a central component of the city, the original plans envisioned a large greenway and entertainment spine for citizens to gather for centuries to come, but due to the economic downturn, it fell into the shadows for 15 years.

Until today, when financial partners joined forces once again.

As an investment for the future, Downtown Reno Partnership donated $80,000 from the Reno Business Improvement District Premium Plus fund. The Nevada Governor’s Economic Development Office awarded the Partnership a $50,000 Nevada Main Street grant meant to beautify main street.

Bloomberg Philanthropies awarded the City of Reno with a $25,000 art grant for a mural that will be displayed on the concrete portion of the ReTRAC East Plaza. The Reno Arts and Culture Commission, RACC, is currently conducting a national search for a mural artist to produce a large-scale design that can be replicated and maintained by Public Works for years to come.

For more information on how to apply, please visit the City of Reno website and search for Call for Artists.

As community involvement is an essential part to making this project come to life, the remaining amount of the donation is attributed to in-kind services from the Nevada Landscaping Association, Stantec Engineering—who created the landscape architecture design renderings pro bo.no—and other future volunteer efforts.

The first phase of the ReTRAC Lid Enhancement Project is scheduled to be completed by June of 2021 and will introduce new trees, new irrigation systems, new soil, new landscaping, mural-street-art and more than 1,600 plants and flowers into downtown.

Downtown Reno Partnership’s Executive Director, Alex Stettinski, believes the project will complement the arts as a long-term place marker in the city. A downtown resident himself, Stettinski received numerous complaints from residents about the ReTRAC East Plaza and decided to work with stakeholders and local business owners to come up with a simple, yet economically efficient plan.

“During event season, Virginia Street is like a festival,” he said. “It’s used for bands, beer gardens and food trucks so we want to make sure that the ReTRAC area is done before then. It will bring color and vibrancy back into a grey and otherwise mundane space.”

With public safety a top priority, the partnership created a community involvement survey to gather insight from local business owners and community members about the East Plaza space.

Out of 94 responses, the survey results show an overall concern for the space as underutilized and bare—most suggested improving the landscape with more greenery and artwork.

“ReTRAC needs aesthetic improvements. Although the surface area is used for events, it does not enhance the city’s image or add beauty to the destination. It’s just a concrete slab…would advocate planting trees and adding park benches,” one community member responded.

“Reno could greatly amplify downtown economic development turning it into the already designed greenway that was in the original plan,” another said.

With all these concerns in mind, the project will aim to provide a beautiful space for appreciating the arts in Downtown Reno. The partnership is hopeful that events will return next summer with food trucks and live entertainment. If state regulations allow, events like the Eldorado’s Great Italian Festival will be able to fully utilize the newly improved space.

Energy conduits will be installed for coordinators to use during events illuminating downtown for everyone to enjoy. Furry friends are also invited to join-in on the fun as Reno’s Biggest Little Dog Park is right next door.

The project should begin construction and improvements in spring 2021.