Reno is known as “The Biggest Little City in the World”. Reno was founded in 1868, five years after the Central Pacific Railroad began laying tracks from Sacramento to form the First Transcontinental Railroad. It was named after Major General Jesse Lee Reno, a Union officer killed at the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War. By the 1950s, the city had become the gambling capital of the country and a popular destination for divorces. However, in recent years, the loss of Reno Air and rapid growth in Las Vegas and of Native American gaming in California have had a negative impact on the city.
Like Jacksonville, Reno is a city in the midst attempting to reinvigorate an urban core that has seen better days. While the cities don’t share much in common, in terms of scale, economy, culture and climate, Next City’s 2015 Vanguard Conference in Reno does offer us the opportunity to see how another community is taking advantage of its natural assets and existing infrastructure to revitalize its downtown core.
Tale of the Tape
To help Jaxsons gain a better understanding of the scale of Reno, here are a few statistics of the city in relation to Jacksonville:
Reno City Population 2014: 236,995 (City); 443,990 (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1868)
Jacksonville City Population 2014: 853,382 (City); 1,419,127 (Metro 2014) - (incorporated in 1832)
City population 1950: Jacksonville (204,517); Reno (32,497)
City Land Area
Reno: 105.9 square miles Jacksonville: 757.7 square miles
Metropolitan Area Growth rate (2010-2014)
Reno: +4.37% Jacksonville: +5.46%
Urban Area Population (2010 census)
Reno: 392,141 (ranked 94 nationwide) Jacksonville: 1,065,219 (ranked 40 nationwide)
Urban Area Population Density (2010 census)
Reno: 2,385.5 people per square mile Jacksonville: 2,008.5 people per square mile
City Population Growth from 2010 to 2014
Reno: +56,515 Jacksonville: +31,598
Convention Center Exhibition Space:
Reno: Reno-Sparks Convention Center (1965) - 381,000 square feet* Jacksonville: Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center (1985) - 78,500 square feet
*-Reno’s convention center is not located in downtown Reno.
Reno: Silver Legacy Resort & Casino - 410 feet Jacksonville: Bank of America Tower - 617 feet
Who's Downtown Is More Walkable?
Reno: 86 out of 100, according to 2015 walkscore.com Jacksonville: 72 out of 100, according to 2015 walkscore.com
Next Page: Reno Photo Tour
The Arch District is named after downtown Reno’s most recognizable landmark on Sierra Street. The Arch District is the traditional center of Reno’s hotel casinos.
The Montage Reno originally opened as the Sahara Reno hotel-casino complex in 1978. For years it operated as the Flamingo Hilton. In 2008, a project to convert the 602-room hotel-casino complex into a condominium tower was completed.
Completed in 2005, the Reno Events Center is a 7,000-seat multi-purpose arena. It is currently home to the Reno Bighorns of the NBA Development League.
In 2007, a project called ReTRAC lowered the railroad tracks through downtown, eliminating most at-grade crossings through the city’s core, while creating a new corridor for infill development and recreation.
The Reno Amtrak Station is served by Amtrak’s California Zephyr and Thruway Motorcoach service. The Art Deco depot was built in 1926 by the Southern Pacific Railroad.
Virginia Street is home to Reno’s famous arch and most of its downtown casinos.
The University District is anchored by the University of Nevado, Reno. Interstate 80 separates the district from downtown Reno.
Located just north of downtown Reno, the University of Nevada, Reno is the oldest university in the state of Nevada. Dating back to 1886, institution has an enrollment of 16,867. Access between the main campus and downtown Reno is negatively impacted by Interstate 80.
Reno’s tallest building, the Silver Legacy Reno, opened on July 28, 1995. Along with the Eldorado Reno and Circus Circus Reno, it anchors a downtown network of connected hotels and casinos.
The Truckee River is the recreational heart of Reno. In addition to miles of public riverfront access, the district also features a whitewater park.
Wingfield Park is an island in the middle of the Truckee River. One of the main features of Wingfield Park is the amphitheater where various plays and concerts take place during the summer months. The park itself is divided into 5 different sections: Wingfield Park West Island, Wingfield Park East Island, Barbra Bennett Park, Bicentennial Park and Brick Park. Wingfield is also home to the Truckee River Whitewater Park which surrounds the park.
The Liberty District is located just south of the Truckee River. Most of downtown Reno’s office space is located in this district.
Established in 1931, the Nevada Museum of Art moved into this modern four-story structure in 2003.
The Pioneer Center for the Performing Arts was built in 1967. It was once, unofficially called the “Golden Turtle.”
This 2,000 square foot Starbucks features cafe seating and a drive-thru. It is a good example of what Starbucks can design in a suburban setting if the zoning regulations allow for spaces with minimal front yard setbacks.
Just south of downtown Reno, Midtown is home to an eclectic mix of restaurants, retail and locally owned indie stores.
Virginia Street is the main thoroughfare in Midtown.
Launched in 2012, the RTC Rapid is Reno’s Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system. RTC RAPID is a faster transit service on Virginia Street from downtown Reno to Meadowood Mall. RTC RAPID includes level-boarding stations with more amenities served by modern 60-foot articulated hybrid diesel/electric vehicles. The service includes technology that allows the buses to communicate with the traffic signals to extend the green time a little bit for the bus.
Old Brewery District
The Freight House District is a three-venue restaurant district located at Aces Ballpark. Restaurants feature Arroyo Mexican Grill, Duffy’s Ale House and Bugsy’s Sports Bar and Grill. Home of the Triple-a Reno Aces, Aces Ballpark is a 6,500 seat baseball stadium completed in 2009 at the cost of $50 million.
Photographs by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at firstname.lastname@example.org