Residents prefer traditional look for downtown

When downtown Carson City becomes a destination spot rather than a thoroughfare, locals overwhelmingly favor narrowing Carson Street to two lanes through a historic city center. They want to retain a hometown feel - rather than a flashy Vegas Strip or eclectic Lake Tahoe, redevelopment officials said Thursday.

Residents want a consistently traditional city center, said urban design consultant Jeff Winston, who was retained by the city to take the favored redevelopment plan and make it into a movie.

"Everybody recognizes that downtown is going to change," Winston said.

But some of Carson City's younger residents want it all.

"A store that has everything in the world!" said 6-year-old towhead Taylor Saarem.

His father, Dave Saarem, was more specific. Pausing before a list of favored downtown attractions, the 34-year Carson City resident placed his green dot sticker - a yes vote - on "sit-down dinners" and "night life." He put his red dots - a no vote - on fast food dining and clothing stores.

"I want my voice to be heard," said Saarem, an engineer. "I hope they will take these items and make a better downtown."

More than 60 people gathered inside the former Garibaldi's restaurant on Carson Street to see the redevelopment plan.

Motorcycles rumbled by the store-front windows and passing big-rig trucks blocked out the sun, a living example of the problem Carson City has had with downtown accessibility and comfort.

Participants yelled over the traffic sounds to discuss personal preferences, or to grumble about the chances of a Hard Rock Café coming to Carson City.

Officials sculpted the draft plan with the input from about 500 people who contributed their hopes during the two-day public forum, said Joe McCarthy, city economic development and redevelopment manager.

Karen McEntire, a Carson City resident since 2000, said she prefers the brick and stone historic buildings. She put red dots on the recently redeveloped Lucky Spur and the Nugget Casino, which had a mixture of green and red dots.

"I want something that looks like Carson City, as opposed to Tahoe or Vegas," McEntire said. Her green dots went to City Hall and the new Garibaldi's restaurant.

Her sentiments were shared by about 80 percent of those who attended the forum.

"It's real clear that this is a very traditional town," said Winston, who is a consultant with Winston Associates of Boulder, Colo. "They love the history and the images of history in Carson City. There's not a lot of interest in the Vegas strip look."

According to the red dot scale, the Downtowner Motor Inn would be bulldozed, said Juan Guzman, Carson City Open Space Manager. That was greeted with laughter from the audience.

About 95 percent of participants favored reducing traffic through downtown to two lanes after the completion of the Carson City freeway. The second phase of the freeway, from Highway 50 to Fairview Drive, should be completed in 2008. That length would ease truck and commuter traffic downtown.

The consultant, who has also worked on visual presentations for Lakewood, Colo., and Baton Rouge, La., said Carson City's redevelopment movie will be completed by early November.

n Contact reporter Becky Bosshart at or 881-1212.


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