Developers wanted for blighted Keystone Ave. property

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) The building at 265 Keystone Avenue has been many things over the years. Most recently, a wrestling gym occupied a portion of the space. But a fire caused by homeless activity in September 2017 left the place uninhabitable. It's been run down and blighted ever since.

It's a city-owned property, and Wednesday the Reno City Council was asked to consider ways to clean it up. A possible solution is to use $50,000 from the city's blight fund to tear it down.

"We're going to get rid of it one way or another," Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus said. "It's just are we going to get rid of it and sell the land? Or do we sell the land with this building and let someone put it to use?"

For now, the latter option is on the table. The council voted to hold off on demolition and let local developers bid on the property. One of those developers interested in the building is Pamela Haberman. She and her partner Kelly Rae, the duo behind the development team of Haberae, see the run-down property as a new challenge.

"Our heads are into old dead buildings," Haberman said. "This is what we like to do."

Haberae has a long, successful history of refurbishing blighted buildings. They are currently working on converting the old Coach Inn on Center Street into 21 renovated apartments.

"We think that every building is salvageable, and why not?" Haberman asked. "The infrastructure is there, it keeps it out of the landfill, and why not use it? It's already there."

On the Keystone property, they envision a handful of apartments in the existing building. On the vacant lot, they would like to see more tiny homes like the Tiny Ten Haberae just finished on Ryland Street.

But that's just a vision. It's not their project yet. By law, the city has to sell the property to the highest bidder. If blight funds are used to tear the building down, the money will be reimbursed with the sale of the property. But the hope is by opening up the property to bid, the cost of renovations will fall on private business, not the city and by extension taxpayers.

"Why spend blight fund at the taxpayer expense when you have developers who are interested in taking this building and making it viable?" Haberman asked.

City staff will come back to the council in two weeks with a better idea of how the bidding process will go. But Brekhus, whose ward holds the Keystone property, says she hopes to see more infill projects in her ward.

"We need to be looking to rebuild and redevelop existing properties so that that's the answer to urban sprawl, which is not sustainable for us fiscally and it's not sustainable for us in other ways," she said. "We have kind of a missing area there where we don't have a lot of housing, and seeing it fill in on the Keystone Ave. corridor would really be a good thing."