Midtown business owners concerned about S. Virginia St. changes

Published: Aug. 15, 2018 at 6:48 PM PDT
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The transformation in the Midtown area has been remarkable to witness.

A collection of older buildings on the least attractive stretch of Reno's main thoroughfare has become a destination for trendy shopping, restaurants and entertainment.

Virginia Street itself hasn't improved and the Regional Transportation Commission says the time has come to change that.

"It's time for us to get in here and reconstruct all the transportation components and bring Midtown, this important, vital area of our community to a new standard," says Lee Gibson, Executive Director of the Regional Transportation Commission.

What will emerge from this project, Gibson says, is an attractive, welcoming street, with wide sidewalks, landscaping, underground utilities, safe for pedestrians and traffic.

But first some discomfort.

Work begins next month with the replacement of sewage, drainage, communication infrastructure underneath.

Just one lane for southbound traffic. North bound lanes will be non-existent for six months or more.

There lies the problem for businesses.

"We love the idea of uniform sidewalks, trees, landscaping. We're all for it. Everyone in Midtown has been waiting for it for years," says David Lorenz, owner of Michael & Son's Jewelry. "But the way RTC has handled this, their communication with local businesses is non-existent."

Gibson says the RTC will work with businesses to ease the pain, but worries remain, especially about the holiday shopping season.

"The fourth quarter for anyone in retail or restaurant business is critical to their survival for the rest of the year," says Lorenz. "Restaurants, bars, Christmas parties, shoppers, it's vital to us."

"It's going to be a tough six months," says Gibson, "but you know what? Together, working together, marketing the corridor, marketing Midtown we can make it a positive experience."

The RTC has a whole business support plan in place with plans for alternate routes, access signs, joint promotions, even keeping google maps up to date and possibly tinkering with the construction schedule.

Halting work from Thanksgiving through New Years would quiet many concerns.

At the moment though, the two sides appear to be at loggerheads. Expect conversations to continue.

Next Thursday, August 23, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., the RTC is planning a block party at 800 South Virginia Street to kick things off.