Downtown Reno Partnership Year Two

2019-2020 Annual Report

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Table of Contents

Economic Development
Media and Marketing

Dear Downtown Stakeholders,

During its second year, the Downtown Reno Partnership continued to support the downtown community with its ambassadors, a growing marketing program and new economic development program. In partnership with Council Member Neoma Jardon, the Partnership added new, permanent tree lighting along Virginia Street. The holiday-style lighting makes a big difference at night and during the holidays. In addition, the Partnership helped fix all event electrical outlets and conduits along Virginia Street, so our future downtown events will have safe and reliable power.

We launched an Economic Development program, which, in its first year, produced impressive results. We conducted a survey of University of Nevada, Reno students and faculty to find out how downtown is perceived and what is needed in the area. And we now have an interactive map on the Partnership website, which shows new developments in downtown at their various stages. The Economic Development Authority of Western Nevada and many developers and investors have used it as a valuable resource.

We successfully started a big beautification project to improve the ReTRAC area between Virginia and Sierra streets. For that, we were able to secure a $50,000 grant from Nevada Mainstreet and a Bloomberg grant in the amount of $25,000 to add a mural. In partnership with the City of Reno, the project is scheduled to be finished by June of 2021.

And then COVID-19 hit. It changed the entire world and imposed challenges to every community in the UnitedStates. When the shelter had to be moved to the Reno Events Center, the concentration of our vulnerable population increased dramatically in the core of Reno.

We all had to shift priorities to quickly respond to the new situation. The Ambassadors were declared an essential service and remained deployed. The marketing and economic development efforts shifted to providing resources to businesses in a time where things changed daily. We increased our newsletter frequency to several times a week, so that our stakeholders and the business community got proper guidance throughout these unprecedented times.

We don’t know how much longer it will take for communities to revert back to somewhat normal, but whatever the challenges, the Downtown Reno Partnership will be here to help keep downtown moving forward. We still look forward to a bright future with over 28 new developments in the pipeline. Shelter space is increasing thanks to the City’ and County’s tireless efforts. Our Place opened this summer, which provides a safer environment for women and children, and new shelter space for our vulnerable population is in development. We are looking forward to another year of progress in our downtown corridor.

As one strong community, we are making a difference


Alex Stettinski and Cindy Carano

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.
Cindy Carano
Cindy CaranoBoard Chair
Cindy Carano is the Board Chair of the Downtown Reno Partnership and Executive Director of Community Relations at THE ROW.

2019-2020 Summary

In the fiscal year 2019-2020, the Downtown Reno Partnership continued its rapid success from the previous year.  The 18 Ambassadors were expanded temporarily when the University of Nevada, Reno paid for a daily shift to cover the path between their temporary dormitories at the Circus Circus Hotel to the campus. That goodwill showed what the ambassadors were capable of accomplishing.

The Partnership created an Economic Development Department with the hiring of Nathan Digangi. Executive Director Alex Stettinski and Digangi work together on large-scale beautification and economic development projects in partnership with the newly created Economic Development Committee. The Marketing Department continued to increase content production and started a new business forum.

When COVID-19 shut down the city on March 17, 2020, the Downtown Reno Partnership switched into crisis management mode. While working remotely, the staff helped manage the crisis in downtown, specifically how it affected our vulnerable and homeless populations. It formed new partnerships with city and county entities and became experts on business issues and changes. There is a page dedicated to this work in this report.

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 2019-2020, the Downtown Reno Partnership’s $2.7 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 RenoPartnership’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. The fiscal year for 2019-2020 is the second year of their 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 2020, 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 redesign and beautification of the ReTRAC train lids in the center of downtown. 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
  • Harrah’s Reno
  • Jacobs Entertainment, Inc.
  • Nevada Department Of Transportation
  • NV Energy
  • Remsa / Care Flight Reno Aces & Reno 1868 Fc 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

Ambassadors stood the test of COVID-19

In its second year, the Downtown Reno Partnership Ambassador program continued to be a game changer for Downtown Reno. The University of Nevada, Reno funded two ambassadors to better surveil the area between the Wolfpack Tower, one of the Circus Circus hotel towers that was converted into temporary student housing, and the campus.

This increased the ambassador team to a total of 20 for the fiscal year.

In addition to keeping the area clean and safe, the ambassadors also addressed the prevalent homelessness issue in the area. Two social outreach specialists focused on tending to our most vulnerable population, leading to many success stories of individuals who were placed in temporary and permanent housing and long-term treatment programs. The new “One-Person-at-a-Time” approach was bearing fruit, and the fact that some of the ambassadors once struggled with homelessness and addiction issues themselves made them more relatable. They were able to garner the trust of many individuals who eventually wanted to change their lives and took the ambassadors’ guidance to check into rehab clinics and long-term treatment programs. Over 30 individuals were taken off the street and into housing or long-term treatment programs. To achieve that, the social outreach specialists have developed close relationships with most social service agencies in the area and were able to successfully refer people in need.

Between January and July 2020, over 1,100 hotline calls were received, most of which were nuisance related. This support led to a drop of almost 50% of nuisance related crime, according to Reno Police. When COVID-19 hit the nation, the Downtown environment was greatly affected. The core of Reno turned into a ghost town overnight. With the mandatory shut down, even the casinos had to close, a first in the history of most gaming establishments. The Ambassadors were declared an essential service by the Reno Police, and they continued deployment throughout the shutdown. They rented a car and expanded the hours until 3 a.m. every day to make sure there was enough surveillance in the area. They received training in COVID-19 and the precautionary recommendations. They were supplied with industrial disinfectants and tools to wipe down street furniture, knobs and railings in the district. They passed out informational flyers to the homeless, when the shelter was temporarily moved into the Reno Events Center, and they assisted in managing the lines wrapping around the Reno Events Center every evening.

The usual sidewalk cleaning services, provided by High Sierra Industries, were suspended and all-day care rest areas for the homeless were closed. Our transient population was forced to find shaded rest spaces in the downtown area, which increased the population immensely. Temporary bathrooms were set up throughout the downtown corridor since all businesses were closed and not enough public bathrooms were available. The ambassador team worked hard to keep the area somewhat controlled. Between March and July, the ambassadors picked up over 10 tons of trash and tended to people who needed support on the street. A big challenge was the constantly changing enforcement policies the RPD had to adjust to. When businesses slowly opened again, business owners expected the same enforcement as pre-COVID, and RPD and the ambassadors worked tirelessly to find creative solutions to assist property owners, businesses and residents in a time of uncertainty and ever-changing conditions. After a small riot in June, which mostly affected City Hall, the ambassadors worked hard, together with many volunteers in the community, to clean up the area and to remove graffiti tags and other damage from buildings and the street. As one strong and united community, we weathered the challenges the year brought on, and we are looking forward to a full recovery in the coming year. The Downtown Reno Partnership will be there to ensure the core of Reno will again be a clean and safe place for locals and visitors alike.

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
marketing materials distributed

Economic Development Mission

Create a more vibrant downtown that is economically diverse, equitable, inclusive, sustainable, dynamic, beautiful and resilient.

Our mission within the economic development departments aligns with the values of our organization by helping to build a downtown that has something for everyone. To focus on the core competencies of our department, we have identified three goal categories:

  1. Data & Information – Collect it, manage it, analyze it and be a strong resource for it
  2. Community Organizing – Facilitate meetings, make introductions, be available
  3. Main Street – Entrepreneurship, business development, downtown promotion, and education

Managing downtown data and information allows us to be a strong resource for our community and stakeholders. It also gives us the ability to learn from the past and make better data-informed decisions. Community organizing enables us to bring stakeholders together to keep the conversation going and facilitate relationships and partnerships to help build a stronger downtown. We are committed to being accessible and available to the downtown community.

Being a Nevada Main Street Affiliate helps to deliver support for entrepreneurship and downtown businesses while leveraging opportunities for ongoing training and education in the areas of Organization, Design, Promotion and Economic Vitality—the Four Pillars of Main Street America. We are in a unique position as Nevada’s only Urban Main district, and our collaboration with rural communities and state partners helps expand our reach beyond the boundaries of downtown.

The Economic Development department has accomplished much in our first year. After hiring Economic Development Manager Nathan Digangi, we hit the ground running by convening the Economic Development Committee, taking inventory of downtown properties, expanding our Reno Urban Main program through Nevada Main Street and starting to track all new developments in our district.

We have built a robust database for tracking stats and information about properties within the Business Improvement District as well as contact information and developments. Working to be data experts will ensure our ability to remain a strong resource while monitoring the pulse of downtown.

We have setup monthly meetings with our regional partners including EDAWN, The City of Reno, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Small Business Development Center and the University. We also participate in bi-weekly calls with other Nevada Main Street communities and state partners.

Our efforts to connect and engage with the local economy include putting together roundtable discussions for different groups and industries that have vested interests in downtown. We organized and facilitated a roundtable for downtown technology and startup companies who want to band together in an innovation district. Future planned roundtables include ones for brokers, developers and investors.

We get notified whenever a parcel within the BID changes hands and have started sending welcome letters to new property owners.

To better assist our downtown businesses, we have formed a strong relationship with the Nevada Small Business Development Center. They provide a wide range of services to businesses at no charge and are an instrumental resource for the local economy.

When you look at our development map, you will notice a lot of activity at the south end of the University.

UNR’s expansion into downtown is a dream twenty years in the making. Reno and the University have been strategically trying to cross the freeway gap and merge economics, education and culture to create a truly great “University Town.” There is serious momentum for those efforts as Canyon Flats student housing is about to be completed and the University Gateway District is about to begin construction.

We conducted a survey of University students and faculty about downtown and received over 1,600 responses. Some of the things we learned show that students want more food options, retail, and non- nightlife activities (especially things for the under 21 crowd).

The outlook for downtown Reno is strong and we feel truly blessed to be able to make an impact and work to create a great urban environment where people love to work, live and play.

By the numbers

population of downtown
median age of downtown residents
number of housing units
average household size
median 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

In our second year, the Downtown Reno Partnership marketing department and committee focused primarily on elevating businesses. This year, the department focused its energy on creating campaigns around summer activities and holiday gift buying, in order to start increasing foot traffic and reputation of downtown.

Intern Rachel Ribeiro added a new dynamic energy to the Instagram platform. She helped build the Partnership’s Instagram Stories strategy for the first time. Throughout the summer, a constant stream of images and videos could be found on the 24-hour stories rotation that helped highlight some of the lesser known gems through downtown. This is especially important during large-scale events, such as Hot August Nights, Artown, Street Vibrations and Italian Festival.

After event seasoned lifted and through spring 2020, the department, board and community noticed an appreciable uptick in activity, foot traffic and general enjoyment of the district. We increased monthly newsletter subscriptions, appeared in more news stories and increased our social media followers and website traffic.

After the winter, we geared up for a major summer, starting with big development news and reopening of the National Bowling Stadium. Unfortunately, COVID-19 pandemic paused everything for the rest of the fiscal year.

Instead of quieting down, we got louder. The marketing department increased its communication with the community through newsletters and social media. It created a COVID-19 Toolkit web page to coalesce the firehose of information residents and businesses needed to know to make it through the first few months. We joined forces with the City and County-run Unsheltered Task Force to produce an informational flyer for homeless people. The flyer helped identify symptoms and resources and provided a map of the new shelter and public restroom locations.

As we finished the fiscal year, we laid plans for what happens next in this new world. As Board Chair Cindy Carano said, “Downtown is resilient. We went from 0 to 100 by spring then back down to 0 during COVID and we can get back to 100 again.”

By the numbers

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

2019-2020 budget

The second year budget was $2.7 million.

$940,000 of that paid for 14 ambassadors, their manager and equipment.

$800,000 paid for supplemental Reno Police officers in order to maintain previous police force paid for by the previous special assessment district.

$460,000 paid for the management staff, operations, marketing materials and enhanced services along Virginia Street.

$500,000 paid for the City of Reno staff who performed maintenance and cleaning throughout the district.


Alex Stettinski
Executive Director

Grant Denton
Operations Manager

Mike Higdon
Marketing Manager

Nathan Digangi
Economic Development Manager

Tanya Polli
Office Manager

Board members

Cindy L. Carano
Board Chair and Executive Director of Community Relations at THE ROW

Par Tolles
Board Vice Chair and President of Tolles Development Co.

Ken Krater
Board Secretary and Chair of Operation Downtown Committee, Owner of Krater Consulting

Mike Rossman
Board Treasurer and Basin Street Properties

Jonathan Boulware
Vice President of Nevada Operations at Jacobs Entertainment

Sharon Chamberlain
CEO of Northern Nevada HOPES Hospital

Eric Edelstein
President at Reno Aces Baseball and Reno 1868 FC

Jim Gallaway
Resident of the Palladio Condominium Tower

Heidi Gansert
Executive Director of External Relations at University of Nevada, Reno

Britton Griffith
Property owner in downtown and Reno Planning Commissioner

Neoma Jardon
Reno City Council Member

Helen Lidholm / Tiffany Coury
CEO of Saint Mary’s Regional Medical Center

Robert Lucey
Washoe County Commissioner

Steven T. Polikalas
Attorney at law

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

Maggie Telander
Downtown Reno resident at The Montage