History Versus Housing

The heart of the historic Powning Conservation District at 700 Riverside Drive will soon be the site of a planned apartment building. The preparation is already underway, but construction is proceeding at the developer’s risk.

The building permits were appealed on May 4 and no decision has been made in the aftermath. The hearing lasted for over 7 hours and the legal and procedural issues at hand are far more complex than many might realize. A myriad of factors at hand include street abandonments and maintenance, public easements, parking requirements, and more, making this a serious and complicated matter.

You can read more details about the project itself here.

As a proud member of the Historic Reno Preservation Society, I wanted to share some information with you with regards to the valuable history surrounding the Powning Conservation District. The HRPS Board has expressed the hope that the design of this building might be revisited to ensure greater compatibility with the neighborhood’s unique historic character.

For many unfamiliar with the field of historic preservation, they may believe that historic character is entirely subjective or arbitrary, but that would be false. Historic character is in fact a measurable quality utilized by the Secretary of the Interior to assess historic and architectural significance.

In the case of Powning, there has been careful documentation and evaluation in a comprehensive 970-page architectural survey that led to its official designation as a local Conservation District in 2009. The City of Reno has also repeatedly affirmed the value of the city’s historic character from the adoption in 2008 of its first Historic Plan. The plan states that “Historic characteristics should be respected and maintained when possible and in new development should demonstrate an effort to retain the historic character throughout the City.”

At the end of the day, it’s entirely possible for a new multi-story apartment building, even in the heart of this district, to be designed to reflect its historic character. Yes, there is a critical need for housing in our community, however there is concern about the new apartment building’s form and massing irreversibly impacting the openness that characterizes this section of the riverfront.

Image courtesy of the Barber Brief




RealtorĀ® Sierra Nevada Properties



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