Wider sidewalks. New landscaping and trees. Bike racks and benches. A cleaner and safer look and feel.
Washoe County’s Virginia Street Project broke ground two years ago, in September 2018. The Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) accelerated construction of the $87 million project last March when most Midtown businesses closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Sierra Nevada Construction helped to expedite efforts and Reno’s main thoroughfare reopened to two-way traffic through Midtown in mid-August.
The opening was three months ahead of schedule and showed off new crosswalks and roundabouts, center medians, and wider sidewalks, along with other upgrades.
Sam Sprague, owner of Micano Home and Garden in the Midtown District, said “It’s like a whole new world — what we had always dreamed of Reno being like.
Having wider sidewalks and a cleaner atmosphere to walk in and feel safe, I’m having a lot more hope than I ever felt when I had three feet (wide) of sidewalk. I’m seeing a lot more smiles out there and a lot more people. Business is up at least 35%, which is pretty big.”
For many businesses, it was a difficult journey while the project was going on. Prior to completion, many retailers in the area were struggling to lure customers to their doors. Kayla Sisson, co-owner of JoStella Coffee Co., opened her store on the corner of South Virginia and St. Lawrence Avenue just one year before SNC construction crews began their work.
“It was really hard because people didn’t want to come here because it was just orange cones and one-way streets and it was really intimidating for customers,” said Sisson. “It was hard to have a new business in the midst of that, and it went on for years.”
With the streets reopened and parking cleared, there’s nothing holding customers back from making it their first stop on a shopping day in Midtown.
“It’s kind of a destination now, where people come to Midtown, they walk around, grab coffee, they go to the shops, so it’s been really great,” said Sisson, noting JoStella Coffee’s sales are up 100% compared to January 2019. “The wide sidewalks really help. And just the fact that it’s an open new road and accessible, that’s all we ask for.”
Many businesses were forced to be creative and adapt to the pandemic, but the ever-present theme amongst Midtown entrepreneurs was hope and optimism. Especially now with two years of construction wrapped up and the pandemic coming to an end, there is a fresh feeling in the air. Some of the sidewalks before construction were 12 to 16 inches wide, and now they’re six feet (if not wider) making the area more walkable and more welcoming.
Realtor® Sierra Nevada Properties