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HRC letter on University of Nevada, Reno gateway houses

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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.

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HRC letter on University of Nevada, Reno gateway houses

  1. 1. Historical Resources Staff: Claudia Hanson Planning Manager (775) 334-2381 FAX (775) 334-2382 Commission Commissioners: Alicia Barber, Chair Melinda Gustin, Vice Chair Mercedes de la Garza Deborah Hinman Jen Huntley Craig Montgomery September 6,2016 Dear Friend, 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
  2. 2. 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 campus. 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 construction. 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 University shares. 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 historic houses. 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 thoroughly explored. 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 facilities there.
  3. 3. . 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. Sincerely, ,-fr->r=rfuAlicia Barber, PhD Chair, City of Reno Historical Resources Commission
  4. 4. 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. 1 23 1 2 3
  5. 5. 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.

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