The City of Reno's Historical Resources Commission today issued a public letter calling on the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to halt plans for a business building to be located on Center Street where there are historic homes.
HRC letter on University of Nevada, Reno gateway houses
FAX (775) 334-2382
Alicia Barber, Chair
Melinda Gustin, Vice Chair
Mercedes de la Garza
Over the last several City of Reno Historical Resources Commission (HRC)
meetings, the HRC has been following the proposed plans for development and
planned expansion of the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) campus into the
area UNR has labeled the 'oGateway District." The HRC has authorized Chair
Barber to write this letter to you on behalf of the commission in order to draw
your attention to the status of some of Reno's most historic properties, currently
owned by UNR and found in this district.
The Gateway District extends from Eighth to Ninth Streets, bounded by North
Virginia Sffeet on the west and Evans Avenue on the east. Many of the Victorian-
era houses in this neighborhood were constructed before 1900 and are in the
Queen Anne style. Twelve of them, located on Center, Lake, and Eighth Streets,
have been found eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. One, the ca.
1895 Mary Sherman House at 847 N. Center Street, is listed on both the state and
City of Reno historic registers.
On July 14,2016, UNR President Marc Johnson indicated in a presentation to the
HRC his desire to move all of these houses out of the neighborhood in order to
clear the way for construction of a new College of Business building as well as
three future buildings yet to be determined (see attachments).
While sympathetic to and supportive of UNR's needs for expansion to
accommodate projected increases in enrollment, we believe it is eminently
possible to preserve in place some of these historically significant homes and
move others, while still retaining abundant room for new construction, and we
hope you will join us in encouraging UNR to follow this course of action. The
historic houses on North Center Street in particular are all in good to excellent
condition, and all are currently in use as UNR-associated offices (the University's
real estate office and the International Center) or residences.
City of Reno, P. O. Box 1900, Reno, M89505
The seven Center Street houses in the Gateway District are some of the last surviving remnants
of historic University Avenue, the name once bestowed upon the section of Center Street
extending from the railroad tracks to the southern edge of campus. Through the years, the highly
desirable houses of University Avenue were home to University professors, students, and
administrators, City of Reno mayors, prominent architects, reporters, poets, and generations of
community members. Together, they not only connect the University to the rich heritage of the
surrounding community, but add irreplaceable beauty and character to this traditional entrance to
Retaining the six houses on the west side of Center Street in place while removing their non-
historic additions would require UNR to reserve a relatively small footprint for preservation of
an important aspect of the heritage shared by the city and University, leaving abundant space for
new construction. Indeed, just across Center Street from this historic row of homes are two
surface parking lots also owned by UNR, along with one non-historic apartment building and
one historic house that could easily be relocated, leaving an entire half city block for new
What's more, a full third of the Gateway District has been labeled by 1INR as "Reserved for
RTC," referring to the projected construction of a transit hub that according to Regional
Transportation Commission officials would require a fraction of the space IINR is setting aside
for it. The land remaining from that planned property acquisition, extending from North Virginia
Street to the alley between Virginia and Center Streets, could constitute prime real estate to
construct the desired new College of Business building or another structure even closer to
Virginia Street, the side of the Gateway most visible to entering traffic.
We are writing to you because repeated meetings with UNR administration since early 2016
have not altered the University's plans to move all of these historic houses from the area. We do
not believe the University administration has given sufficient consideration to the value of
demonstrating IINR's connection to the "University Town" concept by acting to preserve an
important part of the heritage of the community in which the University resides-a heritage the
What we are requesting is the following:
Reconsideration of the plan to locate a new College of Business building on the
west side of North Center Street, the precise location of some of Reno's most
A halt to current plans to relocate any of the historic houses on the west side of
North Center Street until the possibility of preserving the houses in place has been
A pause in developing site plans for the Gateway District until such time as the
RTC learns what propefi it may be able to acquire on the Virginia Street side of
the Gateway and precisely how much land would be required to construct its
. Consideration of the usage of the six historic houses on the west side of Center
Street for functions that might include faculty offices, guest lodging, commercial
tenants, or other uses.
We would appreciate your support in making these requests of the UNR Administration. The
University did not consult any members of the HRC or any community or campus historic
preservation entities when formulating its Campus Master Plan 2015-2024. As a result, these
concerns and ideas were never incorporated into that extensive planning process. However, it is
not too late to address these issues now, while plans for the Gateway remain fluid, and before
any complete designs have been undertaken.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.
,-fr->r=rfuAlicia Barber, PhD
Chair, City of Reno Historical Resources Commission
The red outline delineates the footprints of the six pre-1900 houses on the west side
of Center Street, including the historic register-listed ca. 1895 Mary Sherman house.
Not outlined are the non-historic additions to most of the houses’ west sides, which
could be removed if necessary, to optimize space for new UNR construction.
Please note the extensive land already available on the east side of Center Street
(particularly were UNR to demolish the modern apartment building and relocate the
one historic house currently standing there). All property extending from Center
Street to the alley between Center and Lake Streets is university-owned.
If the Regional Transportation Commission proceeds with its plan to build a transit
hub on the Virginia Street side of the Gateway, it will need to acquire the full par-
cels extending from Virginia Street to the alley between Virginia and Center, but it
would not require those entire parcels for construction of a transit hub. This could
leave extensive land between that hub and the rear of the historic houses on Center
Street—land that could perhaps be transferred to UNR or developed jointly with the
RTC. Waiting to learn how much land the RTC will actually acquire and use will
enable UNR to more accurately determine how much land in the Gateway will be
available to the university for new construction.
UNIVERSITY OF NEVADA, RENO “GATEWAY DISTRICT”
The area depicted extends from Virginia Street on the left to Lake Street on the right,
bounded by Ninth Street at the top and Eighth Street at the bottom.
Historic University Avenue
Read more about these houses and historic University Avenue at renohistorical.org/tours/show/9
The 1899 Sanborn historic map of North Center Street. Six of these seven houses remain standing in very good condition.