Are infill projects Reno's future?

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) To the average passerby, 525 Roberts Street off Wells Avenue is just an empty office building. But for local broker and developer Stephen Glenn, it represents the start of a much-needed change.

"What people haven't been willing to embrace in Reno yet is multi-story," he said. "We have to go vertical."

That is exactly what Glenn is doing. The Roberts Street project will turn the existing building into a place to live and play. The plan includes turning the second floor into two one-bedroom apartments. On the first floor a commercial space will be built out to attract a small deli, coffee shop, or other similar business.

For people like Tim Ticknor, who lives next door to the project, it is a welcome change in the area.

"Yeah, a nice coffee shop next door? I'm excited," he said.

Ticknor has lived on Roberts Street for the past year and says he's happy some developers like Glenn are looking in the Wells Avenue direction.

"This area has grown a lot in the last year, and they need more apartments around here," Ticknor said. "Kind of like Midtown has grown a lot, I think this is the next area improving just like Midtown has."

"There's no doubt," Glenn agreed. "Because it's the last place where we have a supply of lower-cost, undeveloped buildings. California Avenue is done, Midtown is pretty much done, so where do you go next? Wells Avenue."

While some developers are looking to expand out, Glenn believes looking in is the future of Reno's growth.

"Inside the McCarran ring we already have the infrastructure," he said. "We have the stores. We have the sewer system. We have the water. It's the natural place to do development today."

But it's not exactly easy. Wednesday night, the Reno Planning Commission unanimously approved the project, but it was a long road to get there.

"It's a lot easier to go on the edge of town, build a new strip center, a new house, a new single-family, then to go through this," Glenn said. "I mean, this has taken us 4 months. It takes time. It takes energy. It takes dedication. Thus far, probably Sparks is doing a slightly better job than Reno in attracting infill projects. I think the community really needs to think about where we prioritize our zoning."

The area is already zoned for commercial and residential use. Glenn says he would like to see the planning process become simpler so others, not just the few developers already navigating the process, can help with the revitalization.