Reno's Old Morris Hotel Reborn As A 'Burners' Hotel

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For those who've never made it out to the Black Rock Desert to see what the annual Burning Man Festival is all about, an 86 year old hotel on East Fourth Street may provide some clues.

For dedicated burners it's aiming to be a home away from home.

"A permanent spot right here in Reno where burners can congregate," says dedicated burner "Jungle" Jim Gibson, "where we can do artistic things, where we can enjoy each others' company."

Gibson, who owns a microchip company, and his brother bought the aging Morris Hotel and where others saw only what had become a dilapidated flop house next door to the city's homeless shelters, they saw opportunity.

And what he, a collection of local artists and a lot of volunteers are doing is turning the Morris into....well, it will have elements of an artist co-op, a hostel, even a commune. It's been renamed the Morris Burner Hotel.

Some of the work is basic renovation. The rooms are something else.

Each a different theme, the concept developed and executed by a different artist, with the idea of giving a different experience to its occupants.

"You become the piece of art yourself," says the hotel's manager, an Israeli artist and immigrant who goes by the name "Vision.. "We'll have different interactive pieces in each room and you'll be able to play with the room."
The place isn't open yet and when it does open it's likely to be under a membership only basis. Gibson says the concept is gaining interest from burners all over the world.

So, should anyone be worried about what those hippies are doing down on East Fourth Street?

Gibson laughs at the suggestion.

"They shouldn't be. They should be so happy. The burner community is the most penniless hippy to the most successful CEO. It's an arts community. More than anything at the bottom it's an arts community."

In fact, the city and, especially those other businesses along what has been a neglected street, have every reason to be happy with the transformation of the Morris.

This a neighborhood known primarily for the city's homeless shelters, right next door and it's no secret it's been a difficult environment for any business.

Gibson couldn't have picked a more challenging location, but he's undaunted, noting the burners have already been reaching out to the homeless, sponsoring coat drives.

"We're not put off by the homeless," he says. "It's a good match."

In any case it's hard to imagine any other business making a go of it at the location.

It may turn out the arts, coupled with the burner communities enthusiasm may be the key to a revitalized East Fourth Street.