Friday, April 19, 2013
If you look back, for as long as I’ve been talking about what needs to happen for Carson City to reinvent itself, I’ve always said that the city government alone can’t do it all. They can do a few infrastructure things, like change and beautify the streets, but none of it means anything if the people who live, work, and own businesses downtown aren’t committed to the change too. That’s the one thing that always seemed hollow about these efforts to change downtown, whether it was narrowing the streets or building the City Center/Library or even putting up the ice rink. It all felt like the city was out there pushing for these things to happen, and nobody was really behind them. People had opinions, sure, and they were privately for it, or against it, but they weren’t really organized or passionate either way. It was little more than a distraction to the people of Carson.
And I’m glad now to see things changing. City Center was put to a vote and the people said NO, so that’s off the table. Though I still think there is development potential for all that land behind the Nugget, now’s not the right time, and the library, of all things, is not the right vehicle. The thing that has really been galvanizing the town this spring, surprisingly, is something that has been talked about for years and years but never really went anywhere: the idea of narrowing Carson Street through downtown. Now called the Conceptual Downtown Parking Plan, the plan will reduce Carson Street to one lane in each direction, and use the other lane for parallel parking. The median will stay, but the fence that lines Carson Street through the downtown core, which was meant to stop people from stepping out in front of a semi, will be taken out. It’s a small step towards beautifying downtown, but a necessary one, and a good first step because the cost, $30,000, is so low.
The plan from 2006.
The city government has been pushing this plan for years and it never went anywhere. But over the last year, something remarkable has happened. A group of downtown businesses has gotten together to support the plan and push for it to be passed. This is what has been needed the whole time: concerted advocacy efforts from the very people that will be affected by the changes. Downtown business owners, property owners, and citizens who work, live, and visit downtown have joined up to speak with one voice when it comes to support for the parking plan. It is spearheaded by Doreen Mack, who lives and works a few blocks off of Carson Street. Other vocal supporters are Jim Phalan, who owns the Firkin and Fox and High Sierra Brewery, Charlie Abowd, chef/owner of Adele’s, John Rutledge, who has a law office downtown, and Michael Robbins, owner of Hanifin’s Antiques, who wrote this essay in favor or narrowing the street. The group is called Carson City Downtown 20/20, and they’ve already held meetings to present a unified front.
Add in others like Jeff Moser at Bike Carson, and what becomes important about this is that we’re seeing a coalition forming with a vision for downtown. Another coalition, maybe not quite as organized but just as large, has formed to oppose the narrowing of the street. People are getting fired up and making their opinions known, and that is the best outcome we could ever want. The changes that will come out of this are not something that the city is going to decide in a vacuum, it is going to happen with some push and pull and the vigorous debate of groups of citizens. This is probably the most exciting development to happen downtown for years, and not one shovelful of dirt had to be moved for it to happen.
I’ll keep following this story throughout the summer. There was a Board of Supervisors meeting yesterday (April 18th) that ran well into the night, and both sides put up a good fight. In the end the city decided to tear down the fence, but did not make a decision on narrowing the road. So this gives a few more months for both sides to strengthen their cases, put forward arguments, and devise new plans for the future of downtown. I can’t wait!
Tags: carsoncity downtown downtown2020 downtowncc downtownparkingplan futureofdowntown
There’s a fascinating discussion going on on Facebook about memories of Murdock’s clothing store, and the owner Roger who apparently had a bad habit of “checking up” on people in the changing room…
You are probably from Carson city if….
Tags: carsoncity downtowncc
Sunday, April 14, 2013
Work on the freeway at the south end of town has been going along for the last few weeks. It’s in that awkward phase where there’s a lot of people and equipment on site and a lot being done, but not very much of it is visible. They’re tearing up the old asphalt on Snyder, and probably doing utility work to prepare for the freeway to come through.
Snyder has been closed, and the pavement has been torn up. Once the site is prepped they’ll start building the bridge here.
The closure will last basically for the rest of the year. They’re hoping to get it done and have the road reopened before Christmas. It’s a big job, though, so we’ll see if they can pull it off.
They’re doing work outside of the bridge zone too. This equipment is clearing away brush and debris along Bennett Street. There used to be houses along here, but they were all torn down a couple of years ago.
AT&T trucks are on the job site too. All those overhead wires will probably need to go underground before the freeway can come through here.
Out next to South Carson Street, equipment has been clearing away brush. This hill has started to rise too. Don’t know if they’re starting to build up the freeway’s roadbed, or if they just needed to stockpile the dirt they’ve been digging up so they’re putting it here.
The site of Dug’s Windjammer has become the equipment yard. I thought the land would site empty for a couple of years after the building was torn down. Glad to see I was wrong, and it had to go because it actually was standing in the way of them getting started on the freeway.
There is a seriously long road ahead of us with getting this freeway built, but it’s good to see work being done!
Tags: carsoncity ccfreeway construction
Saturday, April 13, 2013
In the 1950s and 1960s, Carson Street was awash with sleepy, tree-lined motels. Especially north Carson Street, north of Hwy 50. Along this stretch there was a motel on nearly every block, most of them small, clean, and generally pleasant places. This was the golden age of the motel, after all, when a color TV and clean sheets could really set you apart from the fleabag hotels downtown, and being out in the suburbs of north Carson Street gave your establishment a rural feel while still being within walking distance of everything downtown.
The Carson Motor Lodge was one of these places, at the corner of Carson and Adams. I don’t know much about what it was like back then, but it looks pleasant. Trimmed bushes, a mowed lawn, plenty of shade. A sign that’s not real flashy but that gets the job done. Even a couple of lawn chairs so you can sit down and watch the world go by. If you need a room for the night that looks like a good place.
A few years later, and the place has gone through a bit of a remodel. Stone facing has been put on the front of the building, probably in an attempt to “modernize” it. Not much else has changed, though. It still looks like a decent place. The urbanization of this part of town is beginning, though. Across the street to the left you can see a 2-story office building that has sprung up. The limits of downtown are expanding, and where this motel used to be far enough away to be comfortable, maybe now it’s getting a little too crowded.
A bit later on, and still not much has changed. The bushes are taller, the grass is less green. The sidewalk is looking a little cracked. It still looks like a decent place to stay, but maybe the sheets aren’t as clean as they used to be and there’s a musty smell in the air. Age is starting to take the motel, and though it happens slowly, it’s inevitable.
Today, the age of quiet and clean motels along Carson Street is over. Many of the old motels are still around, though, remnants of the past. Land downtown was never valuable enough to buy up and demolish these old places, so they just kind of hung on. But just because they are still around doesn’t mean they’re in good shape. Time has not been kind to these motels. This part of town is firmly urbanized now. Old motels share their neighborhood with restaurants, gas stations, liquor stores, and thrift stores. Carson City’s commercial center shifted from downtown to north Carson Street with the construction of several shopping centers. Now this isn’t a bad part of town, but it isn’t the quiet neighborhood it used to be.
And the Carson Motor Lodge isn’t what it used to be, either. It still stands, renamed the Whistle Stop Inn. The trees are gone, chopped down years ago. The grass is gone, replaced by rocks and a tattered picket fence. A train play set sits out front, a gazebo with a couple of mannequins has been added, and a sun-faded John Wayne watches you out the front window. The paint is peeling and the roof is worn. The place no longer looks crisp and comfortable, it now looks run down. And I don’t think it’s available for out of town travellers to stay here anymore. Like most of the old motels that are still standing in this part of town, the Whistle Stop Inn is used as low income housing for those who have trouble keeping an apartment. It is owned by Betty Brinson, a long-time daycare manager who also bought the troubled Downtowner Motor Inn on Washington Street. That motel has been a public eyesore and health hazard, and I’ve advocated many times for tearing it down. The Whistle Stop Inn is in better shape, and it looks like a good place for people who need it.
The Whistle Stop Inn may no longer be in its prime. It has come a long way since the pristine motor lodge in the first pictures, and lost a lot of its charm. It’s still a vital part of Carson, though, and I expect it to be around for a long time still.
Thanks to Jed Block for digging up the first two photos on this page.
Tags: Carson Motor Lodge carsoncity Then and Now whistlestopinn
Saturday, March 9, 2013
It’s been three years since the second phase of the Carson City Freeway opened. The road was built up to Fairview Street, but that’s where all traffic has to exit and go back on the surface streets. There’s still a whole big section of the freeway that is yet to come. Phase 3 (they call it Phase 2B but I’m not going to do that because that’s ridiculous) will go from Fairview to the Hwy 50 interchange. A little work has been done on it, mainly building the bridges at Koontz and Clearview, which opened in 2010 and 2011. No other progress has been done on the freeway since then, though, mainly because the State hasn’t had the money to go forward.
Well, according to this article, the money has been found. Almost. They’re hoping that the funds will be able to be scraped together to finish the project within the next 3-5 years. They need about $100 million total to finish the freeway. And the really good news is that they have enough money right now to tackle the next part of the project: the bridge at Snyder Avenue.
That’s why this coming Monday, March 11, Snyder Avenue will be closing for nine months. This summer, and into the fall and winter, South Carson is going to be a hotbed of activity as Snyder is lifted up and over the new freeway. Just like how it is in the north, the freeway will end up being a wall that will divide South Carson into two halves. The bridges that have already been built at Koontz and Clearview will be one way to get to the other side of this wall, and this overpass at Snyder will be the third. This is a major milestone in the freeway project, and the fact that there will soon be physical evidence of the freeway’s presence in South Carson is heartening news for those of us who just want to see the thing built and opened already.
The construction this summer will definitely be a disruption, though. South Carson isn’t heavily populated, but most of the people who do live down there rely on Synder to get in and out. The rest of the roads out there aren’t that great: cracked pavement at best, dirt and weeds at worst, dead ends all over the place. It makes it easy for the freeway to be able to plow through this part of town without a lot of disruption, because there’s not a lot of infrastructure that needs to be ripped out. But with Snyder closed, the options for detours are very few. I imagine most people will either end up taking Edmonds around to Clearview, or Clear Creek down to Carson Street.
Pilings for the overpass have been delivered.
Looking east along the path of the freeway.
Along with the overpass work on Synder, they are also clearing away brush next to Hwy 395, near the Hwy 50 intersection. This is going to be the site of the big interchange at the south end of town, the largest part of the project that still needs to be built. Their plans are to put this construction off until the very end, but they’re still getting ready for it by doing away with the sagebrush. Tractors have been brought in, and the site of Dug’s Windjammer, which was just cleared last month, is being prepped to be used as a construction yard.
Some progress is better than no progress, and it’s good to see work being done on the freeway, even if it’s in spurts. It may be another five years until it’s all done and we can drive from Reno to Spooner without using surface streets, but it’s nice to see that they’re actually working and not just delaying it eternally.
Tags: carsoncity ccfreeway construction snyderbridge