Regional building environment, future trends topic of meetings
Bob Dylan famously sang, “the times, they are a-changin,” and that sentiment is certainly true with some of the higher-profile retail developments that have come online in Reno in the past few years.
Retail destinations such as The Village at Rancharrah, Sticks at Midtown and Reno Public Market, as well as many newer standalone or refurbished buildings, buck typical architectural and design trends, at least for Northern Nevada. Design and development trends for the future of Northern Nevada are the cornerstone of a new series of focus meetings hosted by the American Institute of Architects Northern Nevada.
AIANN President Angela Bigotti-Chavez, principal architect at Van Woert Bigotti Architects, told NNBW that the AIANN board of directors launched the new conceptual event series with the goal of bringing together the many segregated building industry stakeholders for discussions about the region’s building environment.
“As we experience a continuous high rate of growth and change, it’s apparent that dialogue and collaboration can help to unite the design, construction and development industries into a collective advocacy voice,” Bigotti-Chavez said. “We are nearly 25 years into the 21st century, and there’s no better time to harness the energy and momentum necessary to realize more improvements for our city and region as a whole.”
The Integrator series of meetings is expected to occur regularly and will be a casual forum for conversations that bring together architects, interior designers, landscapers, suppliers, contractors, developers, engineers, and city policy and decision makers, Bigotti-Chavez added.
The idea is to get key players from the entire development community together to possibly identify and elevate trends that will create lasting positive impact across Northern Nevada.
“It is a great time to talk and integrate our ideas and vision,” she said. “We will engage, exchange and discuss what it is we as a community want to address in our neighborhoods, housing, downtown, buildings, industrial developments, suburban areas, art, and our collective places. Where do we want to go? How do we want to do it? What might the next 25 years bring? Let’s talk about it.
“The growth here has been exponential for some time, and we are all going at such a fast pace to keep up with development,” Bigotti-Chavez said. “In many ways, our community has done well, but what could we have done better if we were acting as a collective voice to focus on what we are doing, where, when and how?”
The discussions could prove especially fruitful in areas of Reno-Sparks that are ripe for redevelopment, such as Midtown and downtown, as well as with buildings that are going through their second or third generation tenants and require extensive renovations and modernization.
The meetings also could serve as a resource to bring fresh ideas to projects for developers and property owners — ideas that aren’t necessarily dictated by cost, pro-forma or other dollar-driven metrics.
“A lot of time we wait for a developer to find interest in a property or a piece of real estate, and then we hope they do something wonderful, and then we hope it gets approved,” Bigotti-Chavez said. “Sometimes good ideas die on the vine. I’m curious to see what happens if we all come together instead of having isolated conversations that may be great ideas but just don’t take flight.”
Developers often take their inspiration for new projects from a wide range of sources. Par Tolles, founder and chief executive officer of Tolles Development Co., which built The Village at Rancharrah, said focus groups that helped define the look for the upscale retail concept included wives and friends who helped define what they wanted from a retail center that could also draw them in to spend more time than just for shopping. Additional inspiration was found in favorite destinations, which in the case of Rancharrah leaned heavily on Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa.
TDC also focused on attracting regional and local tenants versus national tenants, a strategy that proved to be a hit for the developers of Sticks and Reno Public Market. And all three concepts, as well as The Oddie currently under redevelopment in Sparks, have a heavy community-centric focus as gathering places, whether it’s through a biergarten, a collection of outdoor fire pits, or a massive food hall that can seat hundreds.
“If you can create an environment where humans can positively interact, you will have a successful place that people want to come to,” Tolles said. “When it comes to experiential retail, that’s what you have to have no matter what side of the financial spectrum you are on.”
Tolles said he’s constantly asked where he thinks Reno is headed, and he’s quick to caution against aping trendy cities such as Austin or Boise.
“Reno is a unique melting pot of gaming, a rapidly evolving university, the outdoor experience, and Burning Man. Nothing is like that – Reno is its own thing,” he said. “South Virginia is going to be something different, but it could be really special, and we should let the organic evolution of Reno happen and hopefully development responds in a way that highlights the really great qualities of Reno.”
As an architect, Bigotti-Chavez said redevelopment efforts typically involve an assessment of a building’s structural integrity, followed by creating unique character and an experience that benefits the client, neighborhood and community as a whole.
While there will never be an off-the-shelf approach to development and redevelopment efforts in Reno-Sparks, bringing thought leaders, builders, professionals and city government together for round-table discussions could lead to simpler solutions, faster problem solving, and greater cohesion for development throughout the Truckee Meadows.
“There’s momentum in different areas of our community, and also with many different issues,” Bigotti-Chavez said. “There are a lot of really smart people in the construction, design and development industries, and if we start having common conversations I truly believe we would see even more positive momentum in the way we grow and change over the next 25 years.
“We’re excited to create smart solutions together,” she added. “Rather than having isolated conversations, creating standalone projects, and pondering good ideas that never get realized, this is about becoming a greater collective resource and voice. Common visions will have stronger momentum to affect future change in Northern Nevada and exceed its potential as an even greater place to live.”