Reno Drafts New Master Plan To Keep Up With Booming Growth


City of Reno

Creating Reimagine Reno, the city’s new master plan, incorporated workshops and focus groups and was the biggest public outreach effort in the community’s history.

An influx of technology businesses like Tesla, Amazon, Google, and Panasonic has changed the face of the Reno area.

It also created tight labor and housing markets and affects everything from education to healthcare to transportation.

To keep up, the city started in early 2015 the process to update its nearly 20-year-old master plan. The result is Reimagine Reno, a wide-ranging planning document that goes before City Council Wednesday.

By making use of surveys and focus groups, it marks the most extensive public outreach in Reno history.

The city enacted its last master plan in 1997, and its population has grown by 50 percent since then, with the pace quickening after Tesla's 2014 decision to build its Gigafactory in nearby Storey County.

“There are a lot of trends and forces that are impacting the city that is basically why the time was right to update the city’s master plan,” said Sienna Reid, senior planner with the city of Reno and project manager for the master plan.

Reid said the plan provides a long-term guiding document for how and where the city grows over the next 20 years.

One of the most important areas that the new plan covers is economic growth.

“A lot of the policies in the new master plan really do help to promote economic diversification over time, noting that the city definitely has a role in terms of the types of industries that it's looking to attract but also the investments that the city needs to make to help to continue to attract different types of industries,” Reid said.

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She said as the city attracts more jobs associated with the so-called knowledge economy, the area must create an environment that attracts those workers, which is an active and vibrant urban space, Reid said.

“One of the key components in the master plan is an emphasis on the revitalization of downtown Reno and working to connect downtown Reno to the University of Nevada,” she said.

The growth of the city's economy has created a housing crunch, especially in lower-priced homes.

Reid said the plan addresses the problem now and in the future. Right now, it will address the problem by allowing for more approval of housing outside the single-family homes. 

Housing like more duplexes and multi-family buildings will offer a greater variety of housing at a lower cost.

The master plan doesn't just address some of the age-old questions of affordable housing and economic development. There are policies that are new to the master plan.

“There are a lot of new policy topic areas in the updated plan and then other areas that we have tried really to revisit and either elevate in this new master plan or bolster what we had in place with our existing master plans," Reid said.

Policies addressing local food accessibility and sustainable building practices were not covered in the master plan from 20 years ago.

One of the sections of the plan from 20 years ago that is getting a boost is arts and culture.

“Policies regarding arts and culture have been significantly enhanced in the new plan," Reid said, "This is really designed to connect in with the community’s vision for Reno."

Reid said community members who had input on the master plan wanted to see a larger focus on arts and culture.

"Trying to elevate the role of arts and culture is a key element in defining the city's sense of place," she said.

The arts and culture piece of the plan will address one of the biggest concerns for residents and city officials: How to maintain the quality of life enjoyed in the "Biggest Little City" and balance it with the explosive growth.

“One of the things that we heard loud and strong through our community engagement was people really value the quality of life in the city," Reid said, "They understand that growth is going to occur and they want to preserve quality of life even in the face of that growth”

Besides arts and culture, the plan also addresses other quality of life items, including access to outdoor recreation, historic preservation, public safety, and transportation.

Reid said unlike other great master plans this one won't end up on a dusty shelf in city hall because it comes with a strong implementation plan. 

The new plan, which is expected to be operative in the spring, incorporates eight principles that will guide its implementation. Those are:

  • A resilient local and regional economy
  • Responsible and well-managed growth
  • Thriving downtown and university district
  • Vibrant neighborhoods and centers
  • Well-connected city and region
  • Safe, healthy, and inclusive community
  • Quality places and outdoor recreation opportunities
  • Effective government

Sienna Reid, senior planner, city of Reno and project manager for the master plan.

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