Downtown Reno Partnership Year Three

2020-2021 Annual Report

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Table of Contents

Economic Development
Media and Marketing
Locomotion Plaza

Dear Downtown Stakeholders,

The Downtown Reno Partnership successfully finished its third year. The year was still strongly defined by the challenges of the pandemic, and we did whatever we could to support the community in its efforts to re-open its doors. We were able to increase our team of Ambassadors from 20 to 24, including three social outreach specialists and two licensed social workers. Here are a few numbers, reflecting their hard work:

  • 2,500 referrals to service (including shelter)
  • 42 referrals to long term treatment programs 
  • Over 640 safe walks 
  • Over 3,000 hotline calls received (mostly nuisance related)
  • 86,000 business check-ins

Thanks to Washoe County’s support, we were able to purchase a van, which enables the team to transport individuals in need of services and shelter. 

Our relationship with the Reno Police Department remains strong and there is great appreciation for the support the Ambassadors are providing to help continue to reduce the number of nuisance related crimes in Downtown and even more complex crimes like a kidnapping that happened in spring.

As the Nevada Cares Campus is now open and utilized heavily, we are involved in a substantial $8.8 million fundraising campaign to help with the next phase of the campus; adding medical services, food services and other amenities to the existing structure.

In an effort to create a more walkable Downtown corridor, especially along Virginia Street, the Partnership identified locations that had trash receptacles missing and helped purchase six Big Belly trash cans. The biggest score in placemaking, however, was the Locomotion Plaza. It took us almost two years to get all the pieces in place to beautify the ReTRAC area between Virginia and Sierra streets, and it finally came to fruition. We secured a $50,000 grant, added another $80,000 from our own budget and gifted the money to the City of Reno to create a landscaped area that includes 20 trees, 1,600 plants and a ground mural, called Locomotion, that expands over the entire concrete lid. The City of Reno was able to secure a $25,000 Bloomberg grant for that. 

We already started preparing for the second phase, adding beautiful lighting to the plaza. For that, we were able to secure another $30,000 grant and $50,000 from our beautification budget. The plan is to add more of these artistic highlights to the Downtown area to enhance the experience for residents and visitors to Reno. 

In the Economic Development arena, we have seen great progress with CAI having started construction of one of the largest conversion projects in the country. The former Harrah’s Casino and hotel is being converted to over 500 apartments, 150,000 square feet of office space and over 78,000 square feet of retail on the ground floor. We have continued to support economic development by providing important data and resources to developers and businesses looking to come to Downtown Reno, including a survey of people living around Downtown. We also started the process of a visioning exercise to have a better understanding about what our various stakeholder groups want Downtown to look and feel like in the future.

It takes a village to revitalize our Downtown, and we are a strong part of it.


Alex Stettinski and Par Tolles

Alex Stettinski
Alex StettinskiExecutive Director
Alex is the leader of the Downtown Reno Partnership and is charged with managing that staff, creating partnerships and economic development.
Par Tolles
Par TollesBoard Chair
Par Tolles is the Chairperson of the Downtown Reno Partnership and President of Tolles Development

Partnerships with the Partnership

The Downtown Reno Partnership’s board, staff and ambassadors spent the year continuing to forge partnerships with downtown stakeholders, services and community organizations. Those partnerships help advance our mission of improving life in downtown Reno. 

In fiscal year 2020-2021, the Downtown Reno Partnership’s $2.86 million budget covered various services, including Reno Police officers who had been patrolling the district for two decades already under city-run special assessment districts. Those special assessment districts helped fund extra police and maintenance in downtown. The Downtown Reno Partnership’s creation converted the City of Reno’s special assessment districts into one business improvement district. Doing so created a funding gap for the full cost of the police services. To close the gap, generous supporters of the partnership’s mission pledged more than $625,000 annually for the first three years to ensure those existing patrols are maintained in order to support downtown and ensure success of the Partnership and its ambassador program. In fiscal year for 2020-2021, that number increased to $900,000 but was also the final year of the pledge.

Specific partnerships with our ambassadors and marketing staff will be discussed in more detail in the related sections of this report. 

In the first quarter of 2021, the Downtown Reno Partnership was awarded a Nevada Main Street Grant, through the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. The grant of $50,000 will help pay for the second phase of redesign and beautification of the ReTRAC train lids that we now call Locomotion Plaza. That project will be completed at the end of the next fiscal year and will appear in detail in 2021 annual report.

Our Partners

  • Apple, inc. 
  • Basin Street Properties 
  • Club Cal Neva 
  • Siri’s Casino, Jeff & Sherry Siri 
  • Economic Development Authority Of Western Nevada
  • Eldorado, Silver Legacy & Circus Circus 
  • The Foundry
  • Governor’s Office Of Economic Development 
  • Reno City Center
  • Jacobs Entertainment, Inc. 
  • Nevada Department Of Transportation 
  • NV Energy 
  • REMSA Health / Care Flight 
  • Reno Aces
  • Reno Land, Inc. 
  • Renown Health 
  • Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitor Authority
  • Regional Transportation Commission
  • Small Business Development Center 
  • St. Mary’s Regional Medical Center 
  • Tolles Development 
  • University Of Nevada, Reno 

Ambassador team grows

With our third year coming to an end, the Downtown Reno Partnership Ambassador program has not only overcome the challenges created by COVID-19, but they have also become a staple of our community. With Austin Pollard taking over operations in July of 2020, balance became the top priority. 

Due to limited resources and new social distancing policies in the shelters during the peak of the pandemic, individuals experiencing homelessness found shelter on the streets and parks. As restrictions loosened, the Ambassador team help these individuals navigate to services as they re-opened. 

The team of Ambassadors grew from 20 to 25 during the year. The five new team members included two Licensed Outreach, one Social Outreach and two Hospitality Ambassadors. The Licensed Outreach changed the game for the Outreach team by having full-time employees tasked with building and maintaining relationships with the supportive agencies as well as providing a form of case management to the clients. The Outreach team performed beyond expectations throughout the year. They successfully referred over 2,400 people to services and placed 60 individuals into long term housing or treatment, which is double the number from the previous year. 

Along with referrals to services, the Outreach team started a new initiative to ensure everyone they work with is insured. Individuals without insurance have limited resources available to them, making it extremely difficult to get them to services when they are ready. This new initiative essentially creates more possibilities for people our team serves, and also has a financial benefit to the community. 

While working with Health Plan of Nevada, we learned that an individual without health insurance could cost the community on average $102,500 in a single year through emergency room visits, hospital stays, ambulance rides, shelter, county jail, and community services. These costs can be drastically reduced or eliminated simply by insuring each person the team works with. Since the implementation of this initiative in January of 2021, the Ambassadors have signed up over 18 people with an insurance provider, potentially saving our community over $1.8 million dollars.

Trust is the word that would best describe how they were able to accomplish so much through this last year. When living on the streets, many have found they can trust no one. That’s where the Ambassador team stepped up. There is a phrase the team lives by, “Under promise and over deliver.” Through this method they established a trust within the vulnerable population ensuring the Ambassadors deliver on what they say.  

Going into this new fiscal year, the team of Ambassadors will have another new tool at their disposal. Transportation has been a major barrier for many seeking resources. Washoe County donated a van that will allow the Ambassadors to provide clients with transportation to services. 

It is not just the vulnerable population benefiting from the Ambassador program, it is every individual and business within the downtown area. The Ambassador team was tasked with regularly checking into every property and business, which in turn established a better relationship with them. Throughout the year, the team successfully provided 86,241 stakeholder check-ins. Before the new year, a survey was created for the businesses, property owners and individuals in the downtown area. This survey would show an overwhelming positive response about the work our Ambassadors are doing in the community. The Ambassadors have spent the last year cleaning the streets, engaging with people and building relationships, and it has shown.

With all the success the Ambassador program has had this last year it would be impossible for them to take the credit alone. A special thanks goes out to every agency in our community especially the Reno Police Department, REMSA Health, Reno Fire Department, City of Reno, Washoe County, Volunteers of America, Eddy House, Karma Box Project, RISE, Health Plan of Nevada, Northern Nevada HOPES, Community Health Alliance, Ridge House and many more. 

The community has come together to support each other and together it is beginning to thrive. 

Ambassadors by the numbers

The Downtown Reno Partnership ambassadors were trained by Reno Police, Northern Nevada HOPES, The Life Change Center, Advantage CPR Instruction and toured numerous service organizations in downtown. They use this training to keep downtown safer by approaching everyone with kindness and administering CPR or Narcan in life-threatening situations. They keep downtown cleaner by alerting City of Reno Public Works and Code Enforcement to problem areas that need immediate attention. They track those interactions as they happen.

graffiti removed
illegal dumping reported
sidewalk repairs reported
directions given and engagements with visitors
shopping carts recovered
referrals to treatment and housing, including 33 referrals to long-term treatment programs
bags of trash collected
wellness checks
feces, urine and syringes removed
safety walks
nuisance issues resolved
business, property and residential check-ins

Economic Development 


Continue to transform downtown into a more vibrant community that is economically diverse, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, dynamic, beautiful and resilient. 

Our mission within economic development aligns with the values of our organization to help build a downtown that has something for everyone. We have identified the core competencies of our department to include three goal areas as our core categories.


Data & Information – Collect it, manage it, analyze it, be a strong resource for it 

Community Organizing – Facilitate meetings, make connections, collaborate, be available  

Main Street – Be involved, support entrepreneurship, small business, beautification 

In our second year of Economic Development, we continued to build upon the achievements of our first year by focusing on our three established goals and six strategic initiatives. 

Managing downtown data and information has emerged as one of our greatest strengths by becoming a strong resource hub of knowledge and collector of statistics. In the next year, we will be implementing a more robust database management system to further enhance our capabilities. 

Some of our accomplishments in this goal area include compiling a report of the top 30 assessment payers representing 347 parcels and 63% of the overall BID budget, developing proficiency using ArcGIS to access Environmental Systems Research Institute data, and conducting another FlashVote survey that was sent out to the greater Reno area—receiving over 630 responses. We also launched an Economic Development section of our website to provide easier access to our development map and downtown stats. 

We continue to maintain strong relationships with community partners, local government agencies, downtown stakeholders, and other industry experts. We have a substantial network and expanding sphere of influence that helps us add value to important downtown discussions. Working with organizations like the Nevada Small Business Development Center allows us to better assist our downtown businesses, and maintaining connections with local developers and property managers keeps us in the conversation about new projects. 

A few highlights in the last year of community organizing include over 186 meetings, calls and webinars, sending 131 letters to new property owners, and welcoming a dozen new businesses. Our monthly economic development committee and regional partners meetings have also become a vital resource for knowledge sharing and status updates. 

As an active affiliate of Nevada Main Street, we collaborate with towns throughout the state and have regular access to partners in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. In addition to renewed placemaking and beatification efforts through our Urban Main Street program, we also have a new focus on ecosystem building and advocating for entrepreneurship programs and support organizations like 1 Million Cups and StartupNV.  

Examples of recent successes for our Main Street goal area were the completion of a beatification project on ReTRAC that created Locomotion Plaza, convincing Whitney Peak to paint the façade of the old Vino’s Lounge building, and helping property owners connect with the City of Reno to access EPA grant funds. We also received another placemaking grant from Nevada Main Street in the amount of $30,000 to be used for new lighting on Locomotion Plaza. 

During the pandemic, we shifted gears to focus on providing assistance for downtown businesses in the form of knowledge, information and technical assistance. We became a supporting member of the Nevada Business Information Network, which created a central hub of state information and resources. We participated in dozens of webinars to help us become experts on the Economic Injury Disaster Loan, Paycheck Protection Program and Restaurant Revitalization Fund as well as other components of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act and the American Rescue Plan Act. We reached out to and spoke directly to business owners to learn about their struggles and inform them about available resources. 

The economic development efforts of the Downtown Reno Partnership have proven to be a catalyst for transformation that has been years in the making. We recognize that there is still much work to be done and our current momentum creates a great opportunity to accelerate the creation of a vibrant urban environment where people love to live, work, and play. 

By the numbers

population of downtown
median age of downtown residents
number of housing units
average disposable income
in total property sales from year 19/20
increase of property sales from year 18/19
people own pets
total businesses in downtown
workers in downtown

Marketing and Media

This year, the marketing department stayed busy spreading the word about ongoing business openings, started its first business forums, produced a lot of content with its three interns and started new holiday campaigns to drive foot traffic to downtown. The year rounded out with a bang when Locomotion Plaza opened.

The marketing department finished out 2020 with its first-ever Holiday Deal Hunt, a holiday marketing campaign invented to drive foot traffic to downtown businesses during COVID-19 isolation. The participating businesses all reported they would play the game again in the following year. More specifics and examples of the game will be discussed on the next page. The Partnership plans to start the game for a second year in 2021. 

Content produced by the marketing department throughout the year continued to be a big resource for people looking for ways to support downtown businesses during COVID-19 shutdowns and isolation. We focused on small content, such as Instagram Stories, Facebook posts and blog lists.  

Our three interns this year, Tamara Snight, Faith Evans and Catherine Schofield, generated a lot of traffic to our social media channels and website that we turned into online advertisements and Facebook boosts. That content included student-focused guides to enjoying amenities, restaurants and attractions downtown. 

Evans and Schofield were paid for by the University of Nevada, Reno Pack Internship program, which we signed up for in mid-2020. The University allowed us to hire two interns for spring and paid for both, instead of only one.

By the end of the year, marketing turned its attention to the work of a major website update and preparing for Locomotion Plaza. The website received a much-needed navigation upgrade, rewrite of the main web pages and clarifications for each department. The Locomotion Plaza, discussed more in detail on previous pages, received a specialized permanent web page on the site.

The purpose of the landing page is to give it a permanent story on the Internet so that anyone could learn about the project, its creators, its origin story and the volunteers who painted the mural and who planted the trees and flowers around it. 

More than that though, the marketing department created all the press materials and pitched all local media, some regional and national media, too. The Locomotion Plaza received more than 30 pieces of individual news content before, during and after the project. Marketing helped manage the news of the event for the Partnership and the City of Reno and Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful so that everyone was included in relevant coverage.

As we wrapped up the fiscal year, we made plans to repeat some of the successes of the previous year and build on the momentum of reopening businesses and getting people back into downtown. An influencer campaign and business forums will begin in the fall.

Holiday Deal Hunt

The Goal

To entice people to come downtown and spend money in multiple businesses, including those they may not frequent regularly.

How to Play

To play, folks just needed to spend $20 in a participating business and ask for a Downtown Holiday Deal Hunt Peel Off card. The card directed them to the next participating business. They then peeled off the card to reveal what deal they were entitled to — whether it was a free item with purchase, a discount off their total bill, buy one get one free deal or whatever the participating business decided to offer. If they spent $20 at that next business, they could get another card and keep playing as long as they’d like. The more cards they redeemed, the better their chance for one of several grand prizes, including staycations at some of our downtown Reno properties.


We launched the campaign on Black Friday and run it through the end of the year. Folks collected cards through Dec. 31, 2020 and had until Jan. 31, 2021 to redeem their deals.

How did it go?

Businesses came up with prizes ranging from small discounts to large gift cards, full dinner experiences and more. Many prizes went un-redeemed, which we expected, so that businesses did not have to deliver thousands of dollars in winnings. Social media advertising went well, but could’ve been improved with more participation from customers. We believe COVID-19 played a big role in dissuading people from going out. Businesses reported interest in repeating it “Without COVID” next year.

By the numbers

media mentions
readers and viewers
publicity value
pageviews on
social media followers
people reached on social media
email subscribers


The 2020-2021 fiscal year budget was $2.86 million. 

$1 million of that paid for 24 ambassadors, their manager and equipment. 

$900,000 paid for supplemental Reno Police officers in order to maintain previous police force paid for by the previous special assessment district. 

$588,000 paid for staff, operations, economic development and marketing programs. 

$400,000 paid for the City of Reno staff who performed additional maintenance and cleaning throughout the district and for improvements along Virginia Street.

$100,000 premium services for beautification and improvements on Virginia Street.


Alex Stettinski
Executive Director

Austin Pollard
Operations Manager

Mike Higdon
Marketing Manager

Nathan Digangi
Economic Development Manager

Tanya Polli
Office Manager

Board members

Chair Par Tolles
President of Tolles Development

Vice Chair Chris Shanks
Dickson Commercial Realtor, owner of The Depot Craft Brewery-Distillery and Louis Basque Corner 

Secretary Ken Krater
Principal of Krater Consulting
Succeeded by:

Secretary Jim Gallaway
Resident of the Palladio Condominium Tower

Treasurer Mike Rossman
Director of Development, Reno Basin Street Properties

Jonathan Boulware
Vice President of Nevada Operations at Jacobs Entertainment 

Sharon Chamberlain 
CEO of Northern Nevada HOPES Hospital 

Tiffany Coury
CEO of Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center

Eric Edelstein 
President at Reno Aces Baseball and Reno 1868 FC 

Heidi Gansert
Executive Director, External Relations, University of Nevada
Succeeded by:

Patricia Richard
Chief of Staff to University of Nevada President Brian Sandoval

Britton Griffith
Property owner in downtown and Reno Planning Commissioner 

Neoma Jardon 
Reno City Council Member 

Robert Lucey
Succeeded by:

Alexis Hill
Washoe County Commissioner 

Steven T. Polikalas 
Attorney at law 

Eric Lerude
Downtown Reno resident at The Montage 

Eric Olson
General Manager of Whitney Peak Hotel

Rick Murdock
Succeeded by: 

Tony Marini
Vice President of Operations & Guest Experience at THE ROW

Kaya Stanley
Co-Owner of Old Granite Street Eatery