Dilapidated historic buildings making way for downtown development

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The owners of the Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno have started development on a new extended-stay property on the corner of W. Commercial Row and N. Sierra Street.

Fitzgerald Real Property, the owner/developer, will begin construction on a 90- to 100-room hotel on the site of the long-closed and dilapidated Old Reno, Vino’s and Reno Mercantile/Masonic Lodge buildings. It will spend up to $13 million on construction of the new property.

“With the large influx of corporate clientele into the Reno/Sparks area, we felt there was a niche to fill in high-quality, extended-stay lodging, particularly in the downtown core,” says Niki Gross, managing director of the Whitney Peak Hotel, which opened in 2014.

“The conscious and thoughtful redevelopment of vacant and blighted properties downtown is a top priority for the city of Reno,” says Reno Vice Mayor Neoma Jardon, who represents Ward 5. “Giving new life to formerly abandoned or empty buildings can drive significant economic benefits for the city, in addition to providing new housing, lodging, restaurant and retail offerings for our residents, businesses and visitors.”

Whitney Peak says in 2014, property owners began working with Paul Ferrari, P.E., a local engineer with a background in structurally retrofitting and preserving historic structures, to assess the condition of the Reno Mercantile building. In early 2017, the City of Reno required the owners to erect safety fencing around the building because of concerns over the integrity of the structure, which was built in 1872 and is the oldest standing commercial building in Reno. The owners spent more than $250,000 installing internal bracing to stabilize the building, which had been vacant since the mid-1970s.

“We evaluated every option and leveraged considerable resources on the owners’ part to find a solution that would allow us to preserve the Reno Mercantile, but we determined that the safest – and only – course of action is to raze the building,” says Ferrari. “However, the owners absolutely recognize the legacy of this building and its importance to the Reno community, so they will salvage and re-use as much existing material as possible, bringing historic integrity to the new building.”

Fitzgerald Real Property has set aside what it calls "a substantial demolition budget," and plans to work with contractors to salvage interior wood beams and exterior bricks to incorporate into the new property. The new hotel will also include an interpretive display that chronicles the long history of the Masonic Lodge and Reno Mercantile, including photos of the building in its various incarnations.

Demolition is expected to begin before the end of fall 2018, with construction completed in mid-2020. Whitney Peak says the new hotel's design will incorporate many of the same elements and amenities of the main hotel.