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Another Take On Preservation Vs. Development In Reno

Alexa Ard

Last week we spoke to preservation activist Barrie Lynn who says Reno’s historic homes are under threat from the rapid pace of redevelopment in downtown and Midtown. Reno Public Radio’s Julia Ritchey reached out to a local developer to get his take on what’s happening.

Gary Raydon is a real estate developer with Marmot Properties. Working alongside his two brothers, they’ve refurbished more than 150 structures in Reno and have demolished just two.

He says his work often involves straddling the two worlds of preservation and development. Midtown, where most of their work is concentrated, is a good example of old and new coming together.

“It’s going gangbusters and that’s been a huge success story,” he says.

He says the opportunities in Midtown and other neglected corridors, including 4th Street and areas surrounding UNR’s campus, are part of the reason why he decided to relocate here in 2008.

Credit Julia Ritchey
Gary Raydon, one of the principals of local real estate firm Marmot Properties.

Raydon says their approach has always been to save buildings when it makes sense. But, he says, the issue of whether to save a structure is not always as clear-cut as some preservationists make it out to be.

“We always take the approach that the greenest building you can build is one that you don’t have to build,” he says. “The flip side of it, though, is that I also have to look to my investors. If I can’t make a return, I can’t be in this business, which means that that building never gets redone and just sits there and decays.”

Affordability also plays a role. He says for every person who thinks development is moving too quickly, there’s an equal number lamenting the lack of affordable housing options downtown.

“People are getting pushed out, so if I preserve everything, and I go really, really slow, unfortunately that means the demand isn’t being met,” he says. “Either I’m not going to get anymore infill projects, or everybody’s just going to move down south and up north and contribute to sprawl and are going to drive into Reno.”

Raydon says it’s a struggle to balance preservation goals with economic ones, but believes Reno’s developers are doing better than most.

“I do think that they’re doing a pretty good job,” he says. “Preservationists and the preservation movement has a lot of good intents, but anytime you get people or an idea that becomes too strict and too rigid, it starts to just become a fight that people want to win. And they stop looking at what they want to accomplish.”

[To hear our conversation with Barrie Lynn, go here.]

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