Interior of Canyon Flats Apartments in Downtown Reno.

Economic Wins Redefining Downtown Reno, Nevada

Major economic wins and noteworthy developments continue to reshape downtown Reno. Growing on momentum gained during the pandemic, Reno has defied the odds. From 2018 to 2020, “the Biggest Little City” (BLC) skyrocketed from No. 11 to No. 4 in the Milken Institute’s Best-Performing Cities of 2020.

Among the metrics measured in this ranking are high-tech gross domestic product and wages. Undeniable economic wins of moving an enterprise to Reno. Other compelling reasons to relocate? Quality of life, proximity to nature, tax benefits, and friendly locals. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention Lake Tahoe, the largest alpine lake in North America.

Here’s what you need to know about the incredible opportunities awaiting entrepreneurs and businesses in downtown Reno, Nevada.

"To see the evolution of downtown and to see the impact of the Downtown Reno Partnership is really great. I love Reno more and more, and the momentum that we have is really exciting."

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Gehl’s The Future of Virginia Street describes downtown Reno in transformation. Spearheading change from an event-based destination to an everyday neighborhood. Exciting and telling statistics support this conclusion. Construction of 1,342 residential units is ongoing. These units will attract 3,000 new residents, adding to the downtown population of over 5,500.

Local officials and investors remain dedicated to economic development and positive change. This people-first approach will foster a thriving downtown core. Par Tolles, CEO of Tolles Development Company, explains, “To see the evolution of downtown and to see the impact of the Downtown Reno Partnership is really great. I love Reno more and more, and the momentum that we have is really exciting.”

More than 85,000 square feet of retail space is under construction. This complements the 1,149 businesses and 22,266 workers already located in the central business district. The University of Nevada, Reno, estimates 4,500 new students will flock to the BLC. This will ramp up a current student population (and potential talent pool) of 20,000. And the Reno-Tahoe Airport projects a 40 percent increase in travelers. More traffic will translate into $3.7 million in revenue.

Downtown Reno, Nevada, Developments to Watch

What are the downtown Reno developments to watch? They include Keystone Commons, located on the corner of Fifth Street and Keystone. This mixed-use project provides much-needed neighborhood amenities. Think In-N-Out Burger, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Jamba Juice, and Chipotle. The Tennessee-based Southern food chain, Cracker Barrel, is also coming to the development. It will employ roughly 200 full- and part-time workers.

Pacific Development’s Ballpark Project offers more urban living options. It sits across the street from Greater Nevada Field (home to the Reno Aces). The development includes 369 multifamily dwelling units. They range from studios to one- and two-bedroom units. Nearly 500 off-street parking spots welcome residents and guests. There’s also parking for bikes, perfect for tackling nearby river trails.

Uniting the University and Downtown Reno

The only Tier-1 university near Lake Tahoe, the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) offers the best in higher education. An “innovation ecosystem” and R1 Carnegie Research University, UNR contributes to the local talent pool. Higher education remains essential to Northern Nevada’s role as a global technology hub. The region already boasts Tesla, Microsoft, Panasonic, Switch, Sierra Nevada Corporation, and more.

Accommodating more students means new residential projects. These are transforming the downtown corridor. For example, the student living complex Canyon Flats contains 158 spacious units. These units can house up to 508 students. Tolles Development Company’s student-centric commercial center, University Crossing, is slated to open in Fall 2023. Located at 705 N. Virginia, it will include 6,559 square feet of restaurants and retail, featuring Jimmy Johns and Wing Zone.

Kyle Rea, Chief Operating Officer of Tolles, is excited about the significance of the project. “This project is among the first student-focused retail development south of the freeway. Tolles Development is excited to bring this project to life to serve the growing university population.” University Crossing will unite UNR with downtown Reno in new and exciting ways.

Beautification, Amenities, and Sense of Place

How do you gussy up 18,000 square feet of concrete? The Downtown Reno Partnership (DRP) knows. Its beautification program of Locomotion Plaza (255 N. Virginia Street) has transformed a blank space into a dynamic plaza. Central to the park is a 21-color mural by artist Brad Carney. It required 250 gallons of paint, 260 volunteers, and 100 hours to complete! Funding came from Bloomberg Philanthropies, the DRP, the City of Reno, and the Nevada Landscaping Association.

Other exciting investments in the downtown core include the Reno Orthopedic Clinic’s (ROC) expansion. This $54 million, 138,000-square-foot expansion represents a huge investment in Reno. It doubles the number of exam rooms, combining all orthopedic specialties under one roof. As a result, it’s the only facility of its kind in the region. The Neenan Company, an integrated design-build firm in Colorado, brought it to life. Chris Wesche, Design Manager of the Neenan Company, has praised the project. “This cutting-edge medical campus will help ROC to continue elevating the health care experience and strengthen the Reno community.”

New businesses continue to relocate to the BLC. Why? Because of its incredible benefits and amenities. But they’re not the only ones who believe in the city. Long-time residents and entrepreneurs are also investing in downtown Reno. Jessica Schneider, the owner of Midtown’s monumentally successful Junkee Clothing Exchange, is relocating to the BLC’s core. Her newest take on the Junkee Clothing Exchange? A 14,000-square-foot revamp of the old Woolworth’s building (Virginia and First Street). And Jessica Lupo is making over a vintage lounge on Second Street. Think flowers, classic cocktails, hookah, and endless charm.

Why Move to Reno for Business Owners

Exciting things are happening in downtown Reno, Nevada. As the urban core emerges as an everyday neighborhood, opportunities abound to get in on the action. Of course, the reasons to move to Reno-Tahoe don’t end there. There’s also the welcoming small-town vibe, excellent tax climate, innovative schools, and the towering Sierra Nevadas. And Reno to Tahoe takes just 45 minutes by car!

The Downtown Reno Partnership remains committed to making downtown Reno one of the nation’s most vibrant and welcoming metropolitan areas. Believing in Reno is more than a mantra. It’s the transformative energy that has and will continue to revitalize and reshape our fantastic civic center. Find out more about what we do and why Reno is where it’s at.

Engrid Barnett is an award-winning freelance writer based in Reno-Tahoe. Recognized by the Nevada Press Association in 2019, you can find her work in Nevada Magazine, Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Rova, American Trails, Northern Nevada Business Weekly, Tahoe South, and more.

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